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Scottish commissioner urges police to review risks of biometric surveillance

Scottish commissioner urges police to review risks of biometric surveillance

An “immediately review the rights and risks of (police) biometric-enabled surveillance architecture,” says the Scottish biometrics commissioner.

The commissioner, Brian Plastow, went on to urge Police Scotland, as well as comparable forces throughout the United Kingdom, to vet their key partners as well as to “deeply consider the legal and ethical standing of dealing with companies where it has been established that they or those involved in their supply chains are involved in perpetuating or facilitating human rights abuses anywhere in the world.”

The statement followed a meeting of the UK Parliament in February that explored the reach of Chinese state surveillance in Scotland, touching on the impact of everything from TikTok to spy balloons.

Behind the news, some suppliers of surveillance technology used by police forces in the UK have come under intense scrutiny internally and externally.

A survey conducted this year by the Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (OBSCC), found 24 of 31 respondents said that their external cameras use technology that cause moral or ethical concerns,  including devices from Dahua, Hikvision, Honeywell, Huawei and Nuuo.

For example, Hikvision is a state-owned Chinese maker of video surveillance equipment, one of the world’s largest, that has been criticized in the West.

Fraser Sampson, the biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner, described the cameras made by Hikvision as “digital asbestos” in a 2022 Channel 4 News documentary, as well as a moral polluter due to its role in the oppression of China’s Uyghur minority.

The UK departments of Health and Social Care and Work and Pensions (DWP) have removed Hikvision cameras from their premises.

The UK’s College of Policing installed 59 Hikvision cameras in 2022, though it insisted that these were not for use on the main police network.

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