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National Surveillance Camera Day to unlock secrets of CCTV

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The world’s first National Surveillance Camera day is being launched by a University of Stirling academic to stimulate public debate about the spread of the technology.

Surveillance centres across England and Wales will be throwing their doors open on Thursday 20 June, in an event planned by leading CCTV expert Professor William Webster. The national day, which is being organised in conjunction with the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, aims to reveal the often secretive world of surveillance cameras and encourage people to think about the technology’s role in society.

Professor Webster, who is Director of the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP) and lead for the public engagement strand of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy, said: “Surveillance cameras have been watching over us for more than 40 years but their rising use, coupled with the development of new technologies like face recognition, drones and body-worn cameras, has resulted in an increased need to ensure that surveillance systems used to uphold public safety also respect our rights and freedoms.

“This event aims to start a vitally important, nationwide conversation about how, why and by whom camera technology is being used, and the risks and benefits this brings to society.”

As part of events, control centres will be publishing key factsheets outlining important information about the equipment they operate, and why and how they are using surveillance cameras.

CCTV has been at the centre of heightened controversy in recent times, with new technologies sparking several debates over privacy. Last month, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to ban police and other government agencies from using facial recognition technology, while a pedestrian in London received a £90 fine after trying to avoid similar cameras installed on a street in London.

Tony Porter, Surveillance Camera Commissioner, said: “Surveillance Camera Day is a world first. The UK is sometimes referred to as ‘the most surveilled country on the planet’. Cameras are used to keep people safe but new and emerging technology can lead to greater infringements to our civil liberties. I really want to start a conversation about how surveillance cameras are used, why they’re used and who is using them. Civil engagement is a key strand of the national surveillance camera strategy and I want people who use cameras to shine a light on what they do – how they’re using cameras to protect communities not spy on them.”

Prof Webster added: “National Surveillance Camera Day provides an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how surveillance is being used in this country.

“Ensuring that the public are fully informed on the use of CCTV – and where the lines should be drawn on access and privacy – has never been so important.”

The organisations taking part include:

• Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
• Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
• Caerphilly County Borough Council
• Gloucestershire Police
• Hackney Council
• North Bristol NHS Trust
• North Wales Police
• Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
• Surrey Police
• University of Wolverhampton

As part of the national day, a new ‘secure by default’ standard for surveillance camera manufacturers is being launched at the UK and Europe’s leading security exhibition, IFSEC International, which is being held at ExCel, London. This new standard will ensure that the default settings of a product are the most secure settings as possible, meaning they are much less likely to be vulnerable to cyber attacks.

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