High-def CCTV cameras risk backlash, warns UK watchdog

Avigilon CCTV camera The latest cameras can be fitted with professional SLR camera lenses to improve images taken

Related Stories

High-definition closed-circuit television (CCTV) risks sparking a public backlash, according to the UK government's surveillance commissioner.

Andrew Rennison told the Independent newspaper that "the technology has overtaken our ability to regulate it".

Surveillance cams now offer up to 29 megapixels, surpassing many cameras used by professional photographers.

Manufacturer's figures suggest there will be 129,299 HD CCTV cameras in the UK by the end of 2012.

The HDCCTV Alliance has predicted that number would rise to over 3.7 million by 2016.

A shift from the use of analogue to digital equipment is also helping drive the quality of the images the cameras capture.

Defenders of the technology note that it helps discourage crime and has helped law enforcement officers identify offenders.

An earlier report by the Integrated CCTV news site said that evidence gathered by surveillance cameras had helped secure some of the convictions that followed 2011's London riots.

'Face in a crowd'

The UK government has asked Mr Rennison to draw up a code of conduct for CCTV use in England and Wales. He is due to present a report to Parliament in April. His interview suggests he will take a tough line.

"It is the Big Brother scenario playing out large," he told the Independent.

"It's the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away."

CCTV images from London during 2011 riots CCTV images helped police arrest suspects after 2011's riots

He also flagged that research was being carried out to pair the technology with facial recognition software to run captured images against databases of known offenders.

Manufacturers are using a range of techniques to improve image quality.

For example Bosch's top-end Dinion camera records images using the HDR (high dynamic range) dual-exposure process to capture more detail in an image's shadows.

It allows owners to save up to 30 frames per second in 1080p quality video and uses an infrared filter to improve its performance at night.

By contrast Avigilon's top-of-the-range camera only takes two images per second at full resolution but produces 29MP photos.

It can be fitted with Canon's SLR (single-lens reflex) camera lenses to extend its range.

Crime prevention

Mr Rennison said that he intended to consult lawyers to discuss whether the UK's use of HD CCTV cameras meant there had been a breach of European human rights legislation.

But the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, highlighted the technology's benefits.

"Whether it's tracking down a thug who brutally mugged an old lady, a vandal who trashed a war memorial or searching for a missing child, CCTV plays a crucial role in tackling crime and making people safer," said Mehboob Khan, chairman of the association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board.

"Town halls don't install cameras on a whim. They consult with residents, businesses and police on whether CCTV is appropriate in an area.

Bosch Dinion HD 1080p HDR camera Bosch's camera uses software to continually adjust its settings to ensure the highest-quality image

"In many instances councils are responding to requests from these groups. As well as serious crimes like burglary, it has also proven effective in reducing antisocial behaviour on our streets, a key factor in whether people feel safe and comfortable in their communities."

Campaign group Big Brother Watch reported in February that the UK local councils had spent £515m over the previous four years on CCTV operations and controlled at least 51,600 standard and high definition cameras.

It welcomed Mr Rennison's intervention but warned that his report might still prove ineffective.

"The Home Office has undermined the commissioner from the start by giving him absolutely no powers to act when he views that wrongdoing may have occurred," it said in a statement.

"Proper regulation of CCTV needs someone to have the power to inspect cameras and punish those breaking the law. If the Home Office is serious about this issue then the surveillance camera commissioner needs proper powers to protect our privacy."

A statement from the Home Office said Mr Rennison would develop a new code of practice to "empower the public to shine a light on those who operate camera systems in public places, challenging them to show the use of these systems is justified, proportionate and effective".

International demand

The UK is far from being the only country to utilise the technlogy.

A study by RNCOS suggests the global CCTV market will be worth about $23.5bn (£14bn) a year by the end of 2014.

It said that Asia and the Middle East would soon account for about one quarter of that market, thanks in large part to growing demand for the products in India and China.

It added that the adoption of internet-connected cameras meant that more footage was being stored off-site for longer periods of time, and that gigapixel camera technology would mean even higher quality images in the future.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    CCTV is fine, but why can’t it be used to protect us? Children keep getting abducted, but there's never any footage to help catch the perps!
    If you park your car where you shouldn’t, suddenly theres loads of footage of your car! if you dispute it they can show you the ROUTE you took from your home. Why cant they be used to protect us not fleece us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Th only time CCTV ever bothered me was back in th days when I was up to no good! If folk don't want to be seen acting an arse in public, moderate your behaviour! These devices are there to protect us and our families. Th folk who say 'take them down' obviously never had their child abducted or a loved one beaten up by a drunken yob. If they had, they would be asking to see th CCTV footage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I'm quite happy for these cameras be in use but the line is crossed when they say "we can then use face recognition to query a database".

    Passively record me and dispose of recordings after a short time, fine. But actively investigate me in case I've committed a crime (and no doubt profile me too)? No dice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Well, people, I could recommend a few websites that transmit pics taken from CCTV. Still, if you ugly, you got nothing to fear, that's for certain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    There used to be a radio programme years ago called "down your way" I hope nobody gets any ideas for a new freview channel, HD or not

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    So according to some of the comments on here, the police and govenment are watching me, a self employed cleaner, carer to my mother, single mother, in all honesty, why would they care? Unless of course, I was a terrorist or a criminal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I don't mind cctv too much. What I do mind is being harassed by police and security guards when I'm out and about with my own camera taking pictures for my own completely legal purposes. Also, if Big Brother is watching me, he should know that I'm also watching him!

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Dont see the problem, actually glad of this decision, if there were a few more CCTV cameras about this country maybe poor April Jones would have been found by now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    People need to stop moaning about goventment prying. More of the report (not reported by BBC) states the gov is only responsible for 5% of the total cameras! My Local bank for example has 14 (that I spotted) Maybe we should take these out? When discussing this data on those in public places not total should be used!

  • Comment number 273.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    The Government should make allowances for those scared of big brother and 1984.

    Free tin foil hats for anyone requiring extra protection. That way, society gets CCTV protection, and paranoid types can be happy to go out in their cool head gear. Sorted.

  • Comment number 271.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    @ 231.krokodil
    "CCTV is a good thing. I really don't care if I am on it. I don't break laws ;)

    And don't suffer paranoia."

    Paranoia? We are talking about self-proclaimed "progressive" Gov'ts here that are front-men to Corporations. The same Gov'ts that are discussing the possibility of allowing Corps to microchip us. Don't be a fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Nothing to fear...Khalid El-Masri was allegedly identified by CCTV in Germany, kidnapped and forcibly taken to Afghanistan, by US security forces. It turns out he was mis-identified. Nothing to hide, many cases of private info being made public, the most recent was a couple of days ago, adoption details sent to a BBC journo mistakenly by the DoH. We have everything to fear, wake up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Oh, just to be clear re comment 237: I was (mostly) joking.

    I'm pretty indifferent about CCTV really. Crime might fall if people know that they're being watched, but they'll learn where the black spots are; regular people then avoid those places which makes them even more dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    What's the problem, if you aren't doing anything wrong, it isn't going to do you any harm . Maybe it will be a problem for the trash trading drugs or committing other crimes on our streets, and god forbid that we should allow that garbage to be upset.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    some people sare saying we live with anxiety just INCASE we may do some wrong... sorry guys, I feel a great deal safer and relaxed with decent CCTV than nothing at all. Areas without coverage just become crime and vandalism No GO areas... my partner only walks in areas of the city at night covered by CCTV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    238.Paul G
    " Youngsters brought up with it seem quite happy..."

    I'm 35, whilst not particularly a "youngster" I've grown up with the introduction of such technology.

    And with it I've seen this country go from having an "innocent until proven guilty" attitude to a "guilty until proven otherwise" attitude with a "them and us" attitude added in for good measure.

    Yeah, real happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    What an odd article. What is the point of photographing potential criminals if the picture quality is similar to photos taken a century ago? Surely the only CCTV cameras worth having, if they're worth having at all, are the highest quality ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    The article all seemed reasonable until I read that the Local Government Association's Mehboob Khan claimed that Councils consult local residents. Utter rubbish if Barnet is anything to go by. Whilst I agree with the idea of more cameras, it should be borne in mind that the camera does now tell lies!


Page 45 of 59


More Technology stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.