The Telegraph: Tories pledge to curb use of CCTV cameras - about time

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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This figure is only an out of date guesstimate, made over 5 years ago, but the Labour government Surveillance State has never bothered, or perhaps never dared, to research a more accurate or up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.

See "monitored on CCTV 300 times a day" etc. soundbites

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

9 Comments

The Tories are just giving the public a sop in order to win the next general election.

As long as the politicians don't antagonize too many voters once they are elected, they are free to break their promises at will.

@ Michael - it is up to the public to make sure that the politicians do not break their promises without incurring the political consequences.

Hopefully these days, as politicians' speeches and statements are made available online, it has become easier to keep reminding them of what they promised in the past.

Excellent set of proposals folks - if even half of your suggestions were implemented, that would go a long way towards converting an arbitrary and ineffective surveillance system into a targeted and balanced tool.

The Conservative's proposal looks to me like a straightforward reaction to recent reports criticising the farcical way CCTV evidence is currently used - according to reports only 3% of crimes are solved by those 4.2 M+ cameras!

I note Mr. Davies didn't expand on *how* the Tories propose to ensure systems produce evidential quality recordings... or who will pay for the upgrade...

@ Mary - so even the BNP are calling Hazel Blears' community snooping plan "fascist" ?

Your comment has been moved and edited under the more appropriate Spy Blog article published on May 13th:

Hazel Blears and Sergeant Flanderka - "tension monitoring" i.e. snooping on local communities

which predates most of the other commentary on this topic by either the mainstream media , or other political blogs etc.

There was no need to re-post, without attribution, almost the full text of the BNP article, a URL link would have done.

wtwu wrote: "@ Michael - it is up to the public to make sure that the politicians do not break their promises without incurring the political consequences."

Just like it was up to the public to stop Britain from assisting Bush in occupying Iraq, both economically and militarily? Ditto for impromptu protests close to the Houses of Parliament, the abuse of legislation enacted for the prevention of terrorism and serious organized crime, etc.

Call me cynical, but we've been here before, haven't we? 1997, when things could only get better.

I'm old enough to remember what the Tories were like in power, their utter contempt for anyone who wasn't wealthy, their infatuation with empowering corporations at the expense of the public (which Labour has zealously embraced), and their belief that they had a God-given right to govern, and were doing us all a favour.

The entire political system is broken. "Fool me once...", as Bush would say - but without mangling the phrase!

@ Michael - so what can we do to improve this dire situation ?

I agree with Michael, and can also remember pre-1997 days. Politicians will make all kinds of policy promises before being elected, but may then do the exact opposite when in office. Manifesto pledges are not worth the paper they're written on, and have no legal status.

Most of the proposed regulations seem reasonable - especially the idea that CCTV images should be of sufficient quality to be admissible as evidence in a court case. However as CCTV quality improves it will become increasingly tempting to use the technology as a replacement for real policing. Audio enabled CCTV may become a kind of "policing by megaphone" or "telepolicing".

On the multiple incompatible standards problem actually at present this seems to be playing in our favour, since it's a barrier to producing a centralised state spying apparatus. In time though open standards will become available and it will become technically a simple matter for any authorised government official to view any camera at the press of a button, just as George Orwell described.

I don't know what the real costs of the massive CCTV empire may be, but it will be a tidy sum. Given the abject failure of CCTV to prevent crime - witness recent official comment - perhaps the sensible thing might be to scrap it completely and use the cash saved to put extra policemen on the streets.

The whole philosophy of CCTV is skewed. At best it is merely a convenient means of recording some aspects of criminality and criminal events. There was a time when the cops seemed to believe that their function was to prevent crime. Now it seems that they regard their job as being one of recording crime and, once in a while, apprehending criminals and/or furnishing evidence for prosecutions which are likely to fail. What are they really doing - apart from watching monitors and computer screens, that is?

Sorry if this one has already been linked a thousand times - from FailBlog, entitled "video surveillance fail", an amusing fightback against CCTV
http://failblog.org/2008/05/29/video-surveillance-fail/


(this seemed the most appropriate item to link from)

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This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

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cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers