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 182.


    A "Code of Practise" is just that .
    Why do you deliberately spell Practice as Practise? Similar thing happens with Defence. Do you have something against the English language?

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    If I am doing something wrong then that is for the law, the courts, judges and police to decide. Not some spotty herbert at GCHQ or a semi-retired geezer in a room at the council offices.

    These cameras are not for our safety - they are for just for monitoring what we are doing - essentially unaccountable civil servants spying on the public.

    I could go on with examples but the space won't allow

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    We have reached a new level of meaninglessness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    The Code of practise means nothing it voluntary and pointless just there to make stupid feel better.
    We are the most watched society in the world has it made it all safer

  • Comment number 178.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    @171. Mike from Brum
    Of course they do face recognition, coupled with the licence, the apnr they track every where everyone goes. With the bank account info they track everything you buy, they track all your email, facebook etc etc They are the great freedom givers USA, UK, EU. Want secrecy - you're better off in China or North Korea

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    "The role of the commissioner, Andrew Rennison, is to encourage compliance"

    So therefore this code is purely voluntary and therefore worth absolutely nothing, and will not stop the government and private companies spying on you. I wonder which minister took the backhander for this one?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    @173. Ghost1972
    Oh yes, I seem to recollect that the bomb plotters wore huge placards stating what they were doing, doodled bomb diagrams on the pavement, and practiced 'being blown up' for the camera...

    The REAL fact is these cameras are to do with making certain you don't decide to protest against the government and its policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    I think either the editor is clearly biased from his 'picks', or the general public are so stupid they are going to give up the freedoms their forefathers fought and died for without even a murmur. Don't ANY of you ever look at history? If those who make the rules can spy on every one of you all the time then you have NO chance - regardless of thinking you are 'law abiding'

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Those cameras in Birmingham where people went mad about surveillance ... the same area where bomb plotters were found to be operating! So the cameras WERE needed. When cameras were being put everywhere we were told "if you have nothing to hid you have nothing to fear" ofc unless your are an ethnic then you can have the cameras switched off...nothing to hide, nothing to fear is outdated!

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.


  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    There is more to come about secret services dirty tricks. I am suspicious of the driver's licence pictures being fussy about size and no smiling.
    I think some cameras are linked to face recognition that identifies and tracks people. They do ANPR for cars without permission, so they'll do it for people too. No qualms at all about trampling any right to privacy. Anti terror is just an excuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    When I walk through the city centre, I have never once found myself thinking "Boy, I wish I wasn't being watched so much." Even if I see a camera, I shrug and move on. Am I unique in this respect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    To quote Oscar Wilde:-
    "The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life"

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    167. Kitty:

    Kitty, you don't seem to get it: You still have your motion profile stored for 2 years for no good reason!
    So you'll say that you've got nothing to hide now...

    You will have to look abroad! They can do it without intrusive ANPR. So could the UK- to preserve freedom & democracy. ANPR is not just about insurance & MOT.

    Only children need to be watched at all times!


  • rate this

    Comment number 167.


    And they're supposed to be able to pull people over for lack of insurance under what? Telepathy? How the hell can you tell a car is uninsured just by looking at it? Even looking at the registration number won't tell you unless you query the computer manually.

    ANPR just allows that to happen automatically, If everything is in order you're ignored. Flagged and it alerts the cops

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    "8years ago in Camberley they installed hd cctv cameras covering an alley through to the car park.
    Previously a site of many muggings and one rape.
    Since the hd cctv has been installed not one mugging or rape."

    Probably just moved onto someone else's doorstep. Great for you, not quite so wonderful for them. But we wouldn't be told inconvenient facts like that...would we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    The issue is people like you who can't think. A few years back it wasn't illegal to have a car with no tax if you weren't using it, now it is, it wasn't illegal to do many things. Now the laws have changed. They keep changing. In 1920 it wasn't illegal to be a Jew in Germany. The fact is we are NOT in control of the government and it is doing just what it likes when it likes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    @ 144.PhamNuwen

    No, the BBC are heavily influenced by the government and are effectively their propaganda tool. Of course the editors picks will be mostly pro government in their stance ie 'if you've got nothing to hide there's no problem'

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    @153. Kitty
    The DVLA know which cars are insured, ... how are cops on the ground supposed to know ... without ANPR?

    By using the address of the registered driver! It works in other EU countries without storing motion profiles.
    And uninsured driving is not such an issue there.

    The difference is striking and it does raise questions even if *you* are not willing to look abroad!



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