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UK Surveillance Camera Code proposal updates biometrics and surveillance regulations

UK Surveillance Camera Code proposal updates biometrics and surveillance regulations

The UK Parliament has received an updated version of the Surveillance Camera Code for review.

The text of the new proposal focuses on regulating the use of technologies like biometrics and surveillance cameras by law enforcement, while also outlining limitations to protect individuals’ privacy.

“Any use of facial recognition or other biometric characteristic recognition systems needs to be clearly justified and proportionate in meeting the stated purpose, and be suitably validated,” it reads.

The document also specifies such use should always involve human intervention before decisions are taken that affect an individual adversely.

The new version of the Code states that surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical, and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose before deployment, and then work to maintain them.

“These are usually focused on typical CCTV installations, however, there may be additional standards applicable where the system has specific advanced capability such as ANPR, video analytics or facial recognition systems, or where there is a specific deployment scenario, for example, the use of body-worn video recorders.”

Further, the proposal calls for stronger assurances of the reliability of biometric accuracy assessments used to support a surveillance camera system which are based on comparisons against a reference database for matching purposes.

“Any use of technologies such as ANPR or facial recognition systems which may rely on the accuracy of information generated elsewhere, such as databases provided by others, should not be introduced without regular assessment to ensure the underlying data is fit for purpose,” the text reads.

These rules apply, for instance, to system operators in relation to vehicle registration numbers or known individuals’ details.

In terms of regulations for live facial recognition (LFR) to help police find people on a watchlist, the updated Code sets more stringent regulations.

These include ensuring that any biometric data that does not produce an alert against someone on the watchlist system is deleted near-instantaneously and that officers should request an authorization process for LFR deployments as well as identify the criteria by which they are empowered to deploy the technology.

Together with the Surveillance Camera Code update, the new proposal updates references to the Data Protection Act 2018, as well as the Court of Appeal judgment on live facial recognition in Bridges v South Wales Police.

The Code’s text has also been shortened to make it easier for users to follow.

Proposed by the Home Office after a statutory consultation, the updated version of the Code is due to come into effect on 12 January 2022, should Parliament approve it.

The update to the Code has been criticized by former Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter for inadequately robust guidance and a lack of clarity for governance rules.

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