A senior advisor to the UK government has warned against the deployment of new high definition CCTV cameras across cities and towns without public consultation.
Andrew Rennison, the UK’s first surveillance commissioner, said the powerful CCTV cameras are capable of identifying and tracking people’s faces from half a mile away, thus they could breach human rights laws, British media reported.
The deployment of the sophisticated cameras and making progress in CCTV technology risk turning the UK into a Big Brother society, according to Rennison.
He warned of a ‘public backlash’ unless proper steps were taken to regulate the proliferation of 16-megapixel HD cameras with the potential to pick out a face and then match it against a database of images of wanted people.
“The technology has overtaken our ability to regulate it. I’m convinced that if we don’t regulate it properly – ie the technological ability to use millions of images we capture – there will be a huge public backlash. It is the Big Brother scenario playing out large. It’s the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away”, said Rennison.
The first official code of conduct for CCTV use will report to Parliament in April 2013 and the commissioner has said he will ensure that “we remain Article 8 [right to a private life] compliant in this country”.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties at the campaign group said: “The Commissioner is absolutely right to warn about the risks of new CCTV technology. However, the Home Office has undermined the Commissioner from the start by giving him absolutely no powers to do anything.”
“Proper regulation of CCTV needs someone to have the power to inspect cameras and punish those breaking the law”, added Pickles.
If the Home Office is serious about this issue then the surveillance camera commissioner needs proper powers to protect our privacy.