Surveillance: Citizens and the State - Constitution Committee Contents

Letter from Martin Beaumont, CCTV Manager, Cambridge City Council


  1.1  Although I hold the post of CCTV Manager for Cambridge City Council and lead the CCTV Users Group and Professional CCTV Managers Association on Training and Development, this evidence is submitted by me as an individual.

  1.2  In this paper I would like to address the following issues:

  a.  Unregulated CCTV Cameras.

  b.  The Security Industry Authority Licensing Scheme for Public Space Surveillance CCTV systems.

  c.  The Information Commissioner and DATA Protection Act 1998.

  d.  The Human Rights Act 2000.


  2.1  Prior to the release of this call for evidence, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Chairman of the Constitution Committee is reported as saying "We now have close to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK".

  2.2  Where does this figure of 4.2 million come from? I do not believe that anyone actually knows how many CCTV cameras there are in this country and I am not confident that this figure is correct. However the real issue is that if we use the figure of 4.2 million then only about 500,000 to 750,000 cameras are subject to any sort of control.

  2.3  These are the cameras used to monitor public spaces and are normally owned by local authorities. Although some private security organisations do operate some systems. Because these cameras are local authority owned, they are registered under the Data Protection Act and subject to the Human Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and several Local Government and other pieces of legislation.

  2.4  But what about the other 3.5 million CCTV cameras. These cameras are installed in commercial and private premises (people's homes), transport systems and other sites. Unless they register under the Data Protection Act they are completely unregulated and the owners can do what ever they like not only with the cameras but also the images they produce. I have had a large number of calls over the last few months from members of the public concerned that neighbours are invading their privacy but there is little we can do because there are no laws governing the private use of cameras. These CCTV systems must be brought under some form of control.


  3.1  I was part of the committee, which assisted the SIA in establishing the Public Space Surveillance (PSS) CCTV Operators Licence. This was seen as an excellent system because for the first time minimum national standards of training and vetting were established before a licence could be issued.

  3.2  Sadly the SIA's PSS CCTV Licence only applied to contractors. This immediately established a two tier system with those monitoring CCTV cameras for others requiring licences whilst those who looked after their own "in house" cameras did not. As a result, "in house" systems did not require licensing and so did not have to submit to minimum training or vetting standards. This situation is wrong and anyone who uses a CCTV camera to observe the public must be licensed.


  4.1  The Information Commissioner has a massive responsibility and his office is always running to catch up with advancing technology. His Codes of Practice is already two years late. The approach they take should change and instead of trying to role all the technology into one, they should divide it up into smaller sections to enable them to keep abreast of the advances and changes in technology and working practices.

  4.2  The weakness of the Data Protection Act is the reliance on people or organisations to register. If they do not register then there is little the Information Commissioner can do.

  4.3  It is my belief that if the registration onto the Data Protection Act was dealt with in a similar way to TV Licensing ie when an organisation or individual purchases a camera, their details are passed onto the Information Commissioners Office so that registration under the Act can be processed. This would ensure we had an accurate figure of the number of cameras in the UK, what they are being used for and we could start to bring these 3.5 million CCTV cameras mentioned in paragraph 2.4 (above) under some form of control.


  5.1  My real comment on this Act is that we are missing a central point of information for Human Rights in this country. We need a Commissioner similar to the Surveillance Commissioner and Information Commissioner who can offer advice and guidance, update organisations on changes and legal cases, produce guidelines and codes of practices and conduct inspections and investigations.


  6.1  There is plenty of legislation and regulation currently available to ensure that those organisations registered under the Data Protection Act or systems run by local authorities respect the rights of the citizens in this country.

  6.2  However, the vast majority of CCTV cameras are unregulated, are not subject to any controls and drive a horse and cart through individual's rights to privacy. Whilst at the same time devalue all the hard work done by legitimate systems to obey the rules and respect the rights of the individual.

6 June 2007

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