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Surveillance landscape is changing

Richard Jenkins, pictured, Chief Executive at the NSI (National Security Inspectorate), explains how the surveillance landscape is changing. The design, installation and maintenance of CCTV systems must now balance security for their buyers against important protection of personal freedoms.

High standards of personal safety, with effective security for both residential homes and commercial premises, are top of the public’s priority list. We all want to feel safe in our houses and walking down the street, as well as within our place of work, yet any perceived threats or actual incidents can have significant longer-term effects. For instance, employee morale can be negatively impacted by a workplace theft, vandalism outbreak or physical attack, leading to potential staff retention issues and other costly knock-on problems – including raised insurance premiums.

CCTV surveillance plays a demonstrable role in helping to deter, detect and prosecute, using evidential quality images, but after 30 years of relatively unchecked public space surveillance there is an increasing emphasis on privacy issues. In short, is the price of surveillance protection too high in terms of its intrusiveness? With stronger GDPR data protection legislation taking effect on May 25, there is rising concern surrounding the need to reassure the public. The focus is now turning towards checks and balances, including tangible reassurances over the security of personal data contained with the images themselves.

Best practice guidance

Action to ensure a system is fit for purpose has therefore moved up the priority list and NSI’s recently updated CCTV code of practice NCP 104 (Issue 3) provides detailed practical guidance here. Covering the design, installation and maintenance of CCTV surveillance systems, it sets out a structured approach to the delivery of a CCTV surveillance system, helping ensure it meets the client’s requirements while also delivering effective security and system operability.

By focusing on end user needs and requirements and encouraging a collaborative approach to system design, NSI’s revised code of practice stands alongside Government’s twin aim of protecting the public and supporting system operators striving to exercise best practice. NCP 104 steers installers and buyers, to ensure user requirements are well defined and agreed ahead of the system design stage.

As part of any risk assessment, a typical site survey will assess appropriate surveillance areas to ensure coverage of all relevant activities to be monitored. Factors including required lighting levels at all times, prevailing environmental conditions, localised risk factors and threats related to the nature of the business concerned, can be included alongside other issues such as use of existing communication networks and cyber security safeguards.

All of these measures provide a valuable basis for agreeing user needs at the design stage, while during the installation-commissioning phase further ongoing reviews help to refine the process of providing an optimal solution – ie, one that is proportionate, effective, secure, and holistically integrated with other site security measures.

Once installed, an appropriate inspection and maintenance programme will help ensure service continuity. The use of software and firmware, either embedded in system components or used in application and operating systems, means that inspection and maintenance is more essential than ever. Any standby and back-up power supply is, as always, key to a system’s integrity (from hacking). System designers must mitigate cyber threats and, once the system is installed, ensure these are managed as part of the maintenance regime.

Compliance help

A 2013 British Security Industry Association (BSIA) survey estimated that up to six million CCTV cameras are operational around the UK – including 750,000 in ‘sensitive locations’ such as schools, hospitals and care homes – with further installations since then and the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles/’drones’, body-worn and other cameras (eg ANPR – automatic number plate recognition) potentially doubling that number.

In the context of increasing public awareness, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s (SCC) code of practice is now complemented by a third party certification scheme enabling organisations to clearly demonstrate that they comply with the code. The Commissioner, Tony Porter, also launched a national surveillance camera strategy last year, bringing all aspects of surveillance cameras together for the first time and providing an overarching framework for surveillance camera systems, users, manufacturers, designers and installers in England and Wales.

Compliance with the SCC code of practice is a valuable symbol of trust in the public eye, with the two-stage process (self-assessment preceding full compliance) covering the 12 guiding principles within the code. These principles offer a comprehensive structure enabling sound, transparent decision making when using surveillance cameras. A practical and easy-to-use self-assessment tool was introduced by the SCC in 2015, helping those organisations operating public space surveillance camera systems to show what they’re already doing to comply with the code’s guiding principles, as well as what may need to be done (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications).

Conclusion

Surveillance cameras have become commonplace around Britain and are demonstrably effective in contributing towards safety and security goals. With them comes the need for accountability in use. A good governance framework for surveillance operations is also required to ensure personal freedoms and personal data are safeguarded. In this context, end-user selection of a camera system provider is aided immeasurably in this specification process by NSI’s Gold and Silver approval schemes, as indicators of competence in operating to industry, British and international standards.


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