Skip to the content

Commissioner to advise councils on ethics of surveillance technology


Mark Say Managing Editor

Get UKAuthority News


Fraser Sampson
Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

The biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner has said he is planning to publish advice to local authorities on the ethical obligations in the use of cameras in public spaces.

Professor Fraser Sampson (pictured) has stated his plan in an open letter to the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, with a copy to the secretary of state for health and social care.

He related the need for guidance to reports on the use of surveillance technology in the persecution of Uyghur people in China, and a failure to obtain a clarification from the Hikvision company of whether it was involved in the process.

Sampson said he has spoken with local government officials and industry representatives on the issues, and plans to produce the advice on the ethics within the Home Office’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.

“The more that surveillance camera systems can do, the more important it will be to reassure people about what those systems are not doing, whether that is in our streets, our sports grounds or our schools,” Sampson said in the letter.

“This is increasingly difficult to detect technically and requires transparency and due diligence by all concerned in public space surveillance activity.”

Need for due diligence

He added: “Without information, none of us is able to carry out due diligence on either the human rights or security considerations on behalf of the public.

“For surveillance companies to refuse to provide necessary information is not only unacceptable; it also makes the provision of necessary public assurance impossible.”

He said he was encouraged to see reports over the Easter holiday that the secretary of state for health and social care has now prohibited any further procurement of Hikvision surveillance technology by his department.

Sampson recently expressed concern over police forces’ use of facial recognition technology, stating reservations over guidance produced by the College of Policing.


Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.