Monday, August 17, 2009

UK Surveillance Commissioner's report released

Here are some interesting notes from the Annual Report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner to the Prime Minister and to Scottish Ministers for 2008-2009

"5.20. There is also disparity in the qualifications to operate CCTV equipment. CCTV operators employed by local authorities are required to pass rigorous examination for the use of this controversial equipment, yet it appears that some police officers operate CCTV without obvious qualification."

"5.25. Though not a requirement of the legislation, it would be a useful practice for authorities to retain a record of the value of covert activity. This might assist Authorising Officers in judging whether future applications would be likely to achieve objectives or to identify other tactics that would be more proportionate. Such an ‘outcomes audit’ would assist the public authority to counter inaccurate criticism and provide evidence for public assurance."

1 comment:

Doktor Jon said...

"There is also disparity in the qualifications to operate CCTV equipment. CCTV operators employed by local authorities are required to pass rigorous examination for the use of this controversial equipment, yet it appears that some police officers operate CCTV without obvious qualification."

The comment by the Surveillance Commissioner is unwittingly rather misleading, for a couple of reasons.

First off, the Surveillance Commissioner does not regulate or oversee the normal use of CCTV in the UK, but rather provides an independent oversight for the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act ( RIPA 2000 ); the comments are in relation to the use of existing CCTV systems, for targetted surveillance as part of an investigation.

That said, the suggestion that Local Authority CCTV Operators are all highly trained, actually overlooks a basic anomaly in the UK's Security industry Act, which means that contract CCTV Operators are required to obtain an SIA licence in order to practice (and undertake training as part of that process), but 'in house' CCTV Operators are not under the same obligation.

In fact to further confuse the issue, a few cash strapped councils are actually using volunteers to operate the CCTV cameras, even though they are not licensed, and may only have had a minimum of practical training.

Unfortunately, until we have some joined up regulation of CCTV here in the UK, there will continue to be a number of agencies with only very limited powers to observe the actions of the observers.