The Daily Telegraph reports some welcome political promises, which we will which hold them to in the future, from the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary David Davis regarding CCTV surveillance cameras.
Tories pledge to curb use of CCTV cameras
By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:49AM BST 21/05/2008
A Conservative government would put strict new limits on the use of surveillance cameras, David Davis, the shadow home secretary, pledged on Tuesday night.
Mr Davis told the Society of Conservative Lawyers that the widespread use of closed circuit television (CCTV) risks infringing civil liberties.
He proposed new rules on the use of CCTV and penalties for people and bodies that use the cameras to invade the privacy of the public. He also promised measures to improve the quality of CCTV footage to aid prosecutions.
Mr Davis said: "There is no argument for having CCTV which both infringes on our civil liberty but is of such poor quality it does nothing to protect us or provide evidence to bring perpetrators of crime to justice - as happens now.
"Conservatives would ensure any CCTV has to be maintained at sufficiently high standard to provide evidence admissible in court.
"We would also strictly limit access to these images to the police and other relevant agencies until they get to court, and set a mandatory punishment for breaches of these rules that infringe the privacy of the individual."
Britain is one of the heaviest users of CCTV in the world, with more than 4.2 million CCTV cameras across the country, one for every 14 people.
This figure is only an out of date guesstimate, made over 5 years ago, but the Labour government Surveillance State has never bothered, or perhaps never dared, to research a more accurate or up to date figure.
There needs to be a level playing field, with CCTV regulations legally enforced , fairly and equally throughout the United Kingdom. This does not happen at the moment.
- We would support the use of far fewer, but properly run and properly maintained CCTV systems, which are all registered with the Local Council planning authorities..
- Providing that they are physically small, as most CCTV cameras are nowadays, it should be made easier to mount them closer to the ground. Under the current "no need for planning permission" building regulations, they are at least 2.5 metres off the ground, like advertising signs etc, to prevent people colliding with them by accident. This would give better pictures of people who currently succeed in obscuring their faces with hoodies or baseball caps etc.
- Residents should be able to legally object, for free, to the siting CCTV cameras which snoop on them or their children, or which are used as a form of intimidation in disputes between neighbours.
- This would aid the Police in serious crime investigations, especially where time is of the essence e.g. a missing child as they would not have to waste time and resources literally knocking on doors and trying to find out who, if anyone has some relevant CCTV footage.
- The Government and the insurance industry should mandate open standards for CCTV image data transfers formats and connector cables. There are far too many incompatible proprietary data compression formats and cable end connectors in use.
- There should be a legally enforceable CCTV image Data Retention period which is equal to or greater than the Data Protection Act Subject Access Request time limit to reply of 41 days, by which time most "CCTV evidence" is usually destroyed. Alternatively, the Data Protection Act should be amended to reflect the fact that most CCTV camera systems are on daily, weekly or monthly data re-formatting or overwriting cycles.
- Where CCTV evidence is "seized" by the Police or the security agencies etc, it must not be kept and stored indefinitely. All copies must be proven to have been destroyed after a suitable Data Retention period. Extensions to such Data Retention periods must be independently reviewed.and not simply be rubber stamped automatically.
- The regulations and legislation should a increase the number of CCTV Warning Signs, with up to date contact details of the Camera Operators - what is the point of a "deterrent" which nobody knows about ?
- "CCTV" should also include all the "see through your clothes or your children's clothes" scanner and imaging technologies such as Passive or Active Millimetre Wave, TeraHerz or Back Scatter X-Ray etc.
- There must be criminal penalties for the abuse of CCTV and other such systems