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 462.

    No382. Winston Smith: Perfectly illustrated.

    Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    449 James

    We all do something wrong every day James. there is no-one in the country who doesn't break some law or other. You don't have to be a major criminal to fall foul of it. Say your brother is taking a bit of cash as an electrician, maybe putting in your new system for £20. You are breaking the law by not telling the revenue. We all break the law... everyday whether we mean to or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    And then maybe after this will be installation of an automated laser gun death penalty system for anyone 'seen' to be committing crime or not being 'right thinking' or politically correct. After all our armed forces and US 'allies' already remotely kill 'terrorists' (often civilians) by drone abroad, and our police not infrequently kill members of the public here based on 'intelligence'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Fact, the vast bulk of crimes committed on children happens in the home, indeed a great deal of all sorts of crimes, happen in the home. I rather suspect that more violence against the person happens in the home than in the streets, should we all be monitored there as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    To those who say "Nothing to fear unless you're doing wrong." Strictly, this is only true if the watchers are regulated AND uncorruptible. From operators zooming in on a pretty face/body to corrupt people "tweaking" the evidence, these CCTV images ARE capable of being abused. One of these cameras would have taken far better pictures of Kate topless, for example, so we should beware!

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    good now prehaps we can see the villians faces rather than a blurd mottled image

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    The quality of the CCTV cameras is irrelevant. The real question is whether CCTV should be allowed or not.

  • Comment number 455.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    I was on a jury hearing a case of brawling in our town centre at closing time. Most of the 12 of us knew the location and the position of the police CCTV which should have should provided vital evidence. We were told it was not switched on. At 11:30pm on a Friday night it should have been but the police have to target their resources! Beware the targeting, not the cameras.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    The next step from HD CCTV, is facial recognition tracking. As the images will be sooo good, they will be able to track your every move. Might as well stick a GPS chip in a person as they will know nearly every move in public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Where was the CCTV when the Government 'wasted' £40 million on a flawed franchise bid? It was watching some innocent plebs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    CCTV is wrong. Period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Im off out to buy my annonymouse mask !

    V doods, thats all I am saying ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    You have nothing to fear if you are doing nothing wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    There will always be crime especially now in this age of recession and cctv will and does not change this

    but in a fit of desperation and fear they call for more cctv even though it has been shown not to work

    As criminals do not think of the consequences of their actions so to those who fear crime do not think of the consequences of where their fear will ultimately lead them

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    I work with CCTV. The advantage of HD, as I see it, is that less cameras are required to capture useable images of the same area

    To put some peoples minds at rest the vast majority of cameras are not watched or even displayed on a screen. The equipment and manpower required would be too expensive. Even recording is at a reduced frame rate to save the cost of storage

    There is no Big Brother

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    60. shane
    there should be audio CCTV in every governmental room

    and linked to the internet so we can all watch at any time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    if you have nothing to hide then what is the problem
    If I have nothing to hide why am I being monitored?

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    It will of course, improve the UK's chances of making it onto the Mr T. voiceover clip show 'Worlds Craziest Fools'. Yeah, on reflection, I'm all for it.
    No, not really. This footage ends up all over the net - you don't need to be 'doing' anything to be included. Want it outside schools? Really? Most of you are regular posters, so have a massive netprint - you should know how sinister this is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    I don't really have a problem with this, if we are going to be monitored everywhere we go it might as well be in high definition to help prevent crime or prosecute criminals.

    It's the step after this or the one after that which worries me. The government of the day might not want (or dare) to monitor everyone's location constantly but who knows who will be in charge in 10 or 20 years?


Page 36 of 59


More Technology stories



  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Aimen DeanI spied

    The founder member of al-Qaeda who worked for MI6

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

  • Woman with closed eyeStrange light show

    What do you see when you close your eyes?

  • Sony WalkmanLost ideas

    What has happened to Japan's inventors?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.