ICO Seeks Comment On Updated Video Surveillance Guidelines

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The Information Comissioner’s Office (ICO) has published a draft of a proposed update to the CCTV code of practice that takes into account emerging technologies such as body cameras and aerial drones.

The watchdog has launched a public consultation on the topic, asking for opinions on when recording should be allowed and for how long it should be stored.

Getting it right

The ICO published the original guidance on CCTV in 2000, long before it was possible to manufacture cheap, miniature digital cameras. Fourteen years later, digital video recording technology has become ubiquitous and requires new regulation.

Body Camera (c) Hampshire Constabulary 2014“Back then, what we meant by CCTV needed little explanation, immediately conjuring up thoughts of video cameras on poles. How times change,” said the ICO’s Jonathan Bamford.

He said it was clear that things like surveillance drones and systems for automatic number plate recognition could be intrusive, and that’s why they should abide by the same principles of privacy described in the original code of practice.

The draft sets out a new definition for what ICO considers “surveillance systems”, which now include “Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), body worn video cameras (BWV), remotely operated vehicles (drones), and other systems that capture information of identifiable individuals or information relating to individuals”.

“The guidance we’ve put out for consultation includes a good example around body worn cameras,” wrote Bamford. “The camera may prove invaluable if switched on by a Parking Enforcement Officer when they fear someone is becoming aggressive, but does it need to be recording when someone has simply stopped them to ask for directions?”

The ICO has launched a public consultation on the draft and Bamford added that this stage is especially important, because the public is more aware of the “benefits and drawbacks of surveillance” than it was fourteen years ago.

Responses to the consultation must be submitted by 1 July, and the relevant documents can be found here.

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