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UK Biometrics and Surveillance Commissioner asks pointed questions of vendors

Categories Biometrics News  |  Surveillance  |  Trade Notes
UK Biometrics and Surveillance Commissioner asks pointed questions of vendors

Biometric surveillance raises a whole series of questions about ethics and public acceptance that go far beyond data protection and existing laws, UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson told the NPCC CCTV Conference in a keynote address.

A case of an individual who filmed sexual assaults against corpses illustrates the limits of data privacy protections, in this case as a right only of the living, in regulating biometric surveillance, Sampson argues. The judge said the defendants’ actions violated “everything that is right and humane,” but as Sampson points out, not GDPR.

Fundamental human rights other than the right to privacy are impacted by biometrics and surveillance, which should therefore be considered separately, according to this argument, which Sampson has made repeatedly since the British Government announced its intention to fold the dual regulatory roll into the office of the data protection authority.

For surveillance to be legitimate and accountable, and not just legal, the convergence of what is legally allowed and what is acceptable in the domain of ethics must be recognized, Sampson reasons. The College of Policing’s National Decision-Making Model places ethics at its center, but procurements that have ignored the situation in Xinjiang appear to avoid ethical considerations.

The complex interplay between surveillance systems is also illustrated by the case of a man who mooned a traffic camera, and then was filmed being violently arrested by a member of the public.

“If one part of the system has been alienating the citizen with what are perceived to be unethical partners, untested technology, untrusted processes, mass retention of photos – or generally disproportionate intrusion into their lives they may be less inclined to assist when another part of the system needs their help,” Sampson says.

The withdrawal of the children’s speech biometrics and natural language processing (NLP) toy (yes, you read that right) Hello Barbie by Mattel after public outcry also demonstrates the ethical hazard associated with the technology, even implemented in legal ways.

Fraser’s lessons from the past year include the recognition of issues beyond data protection in biometric surveillance, the necessity for organizations to be careful with the corporate company they keep, the need to “(t)ake care with your Surveillance Relationship with the citizen,” and to “(n)ever connect dolls to the internet.” Each of these raises a question for surveillance technology vendors to consider.

The Commissioner asks vendors attending the keynote if their policies and practices assume that data protection compliance is solely sufficient to preserve public acceptability, how their partners reflect their professional codes of ethics, how their relationships with citizens would be depicted by Banksy, and how secure the data they collect is.

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