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Tony Porter at ST15 Newcastle

Among the speakers at the latest Professional Security magazine ST15 conference-exhibition, at Newcastle in July, was Tony Porter, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

He described himself as a ‘big fan of the value of CCTV’. He added: “Let me qualify that. I am a big fan of the value of good CCTV; I am very anti-bad CCTV.”

That summed up his approach as the regulator of public space CCTV, typically by police and local government, according to the 12 principles in the surveillance camera code of practice. He suggested that across the surveillance camera landscape there is certainly a level of ‘public blindness’. “If their [the public’s] eyes were opened to some of the issues I’ve mentioned – facial recognition, cuts to services and ANPR – would the support for surveillance cameras fade? Perhaps it might,” he said.

By cuts to services he was referring to a point he made in a speech to the CCTV User Group at their annual conference in Kenilworth, that made the front page of The Independent; that councils faced by austerity are cutting CCTV by stealth, switching off cameras or entire systems, not after making an impact assessment, but merely to save money.

Individuals must be given the full picture so they can make an informed decision around their support for CCTV, he argued. “If these uses are revealed in sensationalist media articles or through people like [Edward] Snowden rather than through serious consultation with communities it will only damage the image of surveillance and the good it can do as opposed to the bad.”

Standards are another challenging area, Porter said; he has a standards board dedicated to looking at such issues. He said: “The standards framework is horribly complex; how do you know which standards are relevant?” He has published a list of relevant standards on his website, that sets out in plain English what each standard is.

Tony Porter also covered body-worn video as used by police and others; and discussed what sanctions as a regulator he should have.

For the speech in full visit https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/speech-to-security-twenty-15.

Also new on the commissioner’s website are case studies of the surveillance camera code principles in use: at Aston University (whose head of security Mark Sutton is interviewed in our August 2015 print issue); and Sedgemoor district council in Somerset. Visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/surveillance-camera-code-of-practice-case-studies.


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