We note with interest, that although the Office of Surveillance Commissioners does not deal with the wider privacy issues of CCTV surveillance cameras per se:
"I shall continue to monitor technological developments closely, such as body scanners, facial recognition and Automatic Number Plate Recognition to ensure that their use does not transgress legislation for the protection of privacy."
We hope that the Surveillance Commissioner will double check that any deployments of the new "see through walls" or "see under your clothes" technologies which are supposed to detect hidden weapons or elosives e.g. Passive Millimetre Wave Radar imagers or Low Intensity X-Ray scanners or Ultra Wide Band devices do not breach either the Voyeurism offence of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 or are capable of "making or distributing" unclothed images of children i.e. kiddie porn. The potential to cause harassment to individuals (one's inside leg measurement or bra size is , after all, very personal data) and to entire ethnic or religous minority communities through the use of such technologies, especially if deployed in a covert manner, should not be underestimated.
The report also mentions the fact that new Guidance has had to be issued to the Police regarding the planting of CCTV and other surveillance devices in private residences or premises which are being subjected to "Repeat Burglaries". The issue is one of informed consent of other innocent visitors and residents who will not be aware that they are under CCTV surveillance, and for whom there is no surveillance warrant.
This principle should really also apply to any public CCTV surveillance system, but of course, the terms of reference for the Surveillance Commissioner are very tightly drawn and only deal with where the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act applies to public authorities. Private sector snooping is not covered or regulated at all.
The report also publishes some Annexes which give figures for the number authorisations for the planting of electronic bugging or tracking devices in vehicles in what are presumably active terrorism investigations are interesting e.g. under the Terrorism Act 2000:
2000 - 2001: 117
2001 - 2002: 185
2002 - 2003: 176
2003 - 2004: 126
and similar figures under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1997 relating to terrorism (vehicles and premises)
1999 - 2000: 224
2000 - 2001: 136
2001 - 2002: 116
2002 - 2003: 170
2003 - 2004: 177
These are tiny numbers of what must be properely targeted investigations, compared with the arbitary and racially biased stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 s 44(1) which we commented on previously:
2001 - 2002: 7804 stops and searches leading to only 20 arrests connected with terrorism
2002 - 2003: 16,641 stops and searches leading to only 11 arrests connected with terrorism
The massive number of searches compared with actual arrests or with authorisations to conduct intrusive or directed surveillance highlights that there is something very wrong in the way that the exceptional, draconian, Police powers under the Terrorism Act are being used.
Being stoped and searched in a vehicle or as a pedestrian under the Terrorism Act 2000 is not a trivial matter - it is a mass punishment in itself, which is potentially life threatening to anybody who panics and then gets chased by armed police.
The fact that you have been stopped and searched as a "suspected terrorist" is a huge black mark on your secret police record, and could easily have a bad effect on your employment prospects and will almost certainly cause you extra hassle and delay at airports etc.