Surveillance camera code of practice comes into force

CCTV camera The code applies to the CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems of public bodies

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A code of practice on the use of surveillance cameras by bodies such as local authorities and police forces has come into effect in England and Wales.

The Home Office introduced the code after concerns over the potential for the abuse or misuse of surveillance by the state in public places.

The code says the cameras must be used "in pursuit of a legitimate aim" and when it "meets a pressing need".

Campaign group Big Brother Watch said the code did not go far enough.

The code of practice also restricts access to and retention of data, and encourages private operators to apply the code as well as public bodies.

The code says: "Where used appropriately, these systems are valuable tools which contribute to public safety and security and in protecting both people and property.

"The purpose of the code will be to ensure that individuals and wider communities have confidence that surveillance cameras are deployed to protect and support them, rather than spy on them."

Start Quote

Ultimately the regulator needs real powers to enforce the rules and the code should apply to every CCTV camera, irrespective of who is operating it”

End Quote Nick Pickles Director, Big Brother Watch

The code of practice has been introduced under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which also established the post of surveillance camera commissioner.

The 12 point code of conduct says the use of a surveillance camera system must:

  1. always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need
  2. take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy
  3. have as much transparency as possible, including a published contact point for access to information and complaints
  4. have clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance activities including images and information collected, held and used
  5. have clear rules, policies and procedures in place and these must be communicated to all who need to comply with them
  6. have no more images and information stored than that which is strictly required
  7. restrict access to retained images and information with clear rules on who can gain access
  8. consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards
  9. be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use
  10. have effective review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with
  11. be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value, when used in pursuit of a legitimate aim
  12. be accurate and kept up to date when any information is used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes

The role of the commissioner, Andrew Rennison, is to encourage compliance, review how the code is working and recommend any changes.

The code applies to CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems.

Minister for Criminal Information Lord Taylor of Holbeach said CCTV and number plate recognition were "vital tools" but it was "crucial they focused on aiding the fight against crime and protecting the public".

The code and the commissioner's work "will better harness these technologies and help put an end to CCTV systems growing without proper oversight," he added.

'Surveillance state'

In 2010, West Midlands Police apologised after 200 so-called spy cameras were set up in largely Muslim areas of Birmingham.

The cameras, some of them hidden, were paid for with £3m of government funding intended for tackling terrorism.

Residents were angry about a lack of consultation and an independent report was highly critical. The police said none of the cameras had been switched on.

That scandal prompted the government to launch a consultation on the introduction of the code of practice and the commissioner.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said the the code was a step in the right direction but more needed to happen.

He said: "With only a small fraction of cameras covered and without any penalties for breaking the code there is much more that could be done to protect people's privacy from unjustified or excessive surveillance.

"Ultimately the regulator needs real powers to enforce the rules and the code should apply to every CCTV camera, irrespective of who is operating it.

Mr Pickles added: "We have already seen cases of cameras in school toilets, neighbours involving the police because of cameras on private property and concerns about new marketing technology tracking number plates, yet the code would not apply in any of these situations.

"As CCTV technology improves and issues like facial recognition analysis come to the fore it is essential that people are able to access meaningful redress where their privacy is infringed.

"The surveillance camera commissioner must be given the powers and the resources to take action, otherwise the public will rightly ask if the surveillance state continues to escape accountability."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    So no more dodgy operators eyeing-up attractive women then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    If this code doesn't show the tories are orientated towards the private sector nothing will.made the new code compulsory for public sector but made it only optional for private sector "outrageous"

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    @66. Avonar
    "People wouldn't be gullible to want them if they didn'."

    Yes they would. After all, you are.

    "Furthermore he privacy thing always gets me. It's not like they're in your house, spying on you in the shower."


  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    If CCTV images are helpful in fighting crime, why is it that the only footage we see on our TV screens, after some crime has been committed are so out of focus, or so badly lit that they are, inevitably worse than useless.

    Is it impossible to provide, and record high definition images for some reason?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    A complete waste of time, this is just another case of the government wishing to be seen to be doing something.
    A code is not a legal statute; hence disregarding the code will not engender any legal sanctions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    @66 ,72
    Oh really? interesting to believe CCTV has not been abused, and that if i make a purposeful Google search or visit youtube, you cannot see such abuse of CCTV! Its ok though, its only an abandonment of our privacy which apparently has no value.

    Anything that helps reduce crime is a positive? perhaps a daily search of each property and person by the police would reduce crime.Such a positive

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The main problems with CCTV are;
    1.Working cameras can simply drive crime to a different area 2.even with crisp digital images the police are not interested in footage of property damage unless you can provide names, addresses and witness statements to accompany your footage 3.None-monitored cameras give people a false sense of security 4.Cameras are a poor substitute for humans on the ground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    For those saying "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear", this is a quote from a speech by Nazi Joseph Goebbels. If you have to use a Nazi to justify your argument then you've kind of lost really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    There seems to be a misunderstanding between a CCTV camera and a Laser Turret.

    Cameras will quite happily let you get raped and murdered, they merely ensure that there will be video evidence should your unfortunate demise happen in front of it.

    Unless your attacker is wearing a hood.

    Safety, is not what these devices provide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I believe that this is a waste of time in East Sussex as when you report a crime to the police and mention that a CCTV is nearby they tell you that they do not have people that can look at CCTV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    70. Phil
    Currently, we're spied on for nothing...except maybe for the gratification of the nosey parkers running the things.
    What justification do you have for that? Is that seriously how you see it? I don't think anyone is saying that CCTV cameras are there to eliminate crime alogether. But anyhing that helps reduce it (which I firmly believe they do) is a positive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    This is so right it has to be repeated -

    "How about we make it a law that all CCTVs become webcams so we can all look .. plus make the DVLA database public so we can identify dodgy drivers.
    And for all who say nothing to hide nothing to fear, please post you tax returns and bank balances on line.

    Spotted the difference between privacy and secrecy yet.??"

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    "I'll never quite understand why there's so much hatred for CCTV cameras"

    If we had near zero crime, there could be some justification for them. Since we have LOTS of crime, it's pretty obvious that they don't actually work. Currently, we're spied on for nothing...except maybe for the gratification of the nosey parkers running the things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    We are no longer a free society folks, suck it up or do something about it!

    Start with not voting for the Big 3 decievers the ConDemLab at 2015.

    Frankly I think all the little sheep are too weak to see the wood for the trees because they are to busy having their backsides wiped for them by the state and auntie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    mark_x; The issue is privacy, Herr Kommandant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Good idea which has been delivered poorly. The 12 point code of conduct is way too generic and non-specific.

    This can never be enforced as effectively the 12 point code is just a wish list.

    Waste of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I'll never quite understand why there's so much hatred for CCTV cameras. The company I work designs and installs (among others) CCTV systems, trust me, they work as a deterrent. People wouldn't be gullible to want them if they didn'.

    Furthermore he privacy thing always gets me. It's not like they're in your house, spying on you in the shower.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    31. Money
    What does CCTV stand for ?

    Close Circuit TeleVision

    ie: not broadcast over a public network or transmitted

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    To clarify my posting No. 56.

    I1. have not been caught by any of these revenue raising scams even by the police.

    2. My Forward Facing Camera might as a consequence be included in my suggested restriction on SPYCAM use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    @62 Truth is, we could all walk around nude, as it makes it easier to detect if we are hiding knives, weapons, drugs or stolen goods, does'nt make it viable though. Crimes are not prevented by CCTV only possibly witnessed, So, If you feel safer, then you are a fool.


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