UK Policing Riddled with Chinese CCTV Cameras

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An independent government watchdog has raised serious concerns about the widespread use of Chinese-made surveillance cameras by UK police forces.

The Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (OBSCC) received responses from 39 out of 47 regional police forces, as well as the British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence and the National Crime Agency.

It found that 24 used CCTV cameras inside their premises made by one of five companies which are Chinese or use Chinese components. These are Chinese vendors Dahua, Hikvision and Huawei, Taiwanese camera-maker Nuuo and US firm Honeywell.

A further 18 respondents said they use one of the five manufacturers for external camera systems and 11 that they use the firms to supply ANPR number plate recognition kit.

Hikvision is thought to be the biggest supplier of such equipment to the police force. In fact, it also supplies at least two police forces with body-worn cameras, the commissioner said.

In addition, 23 of 31 respondents who operate cameras on drones admitted security or ethical concerns about the manufacturer, Chinese firm DJI.

Concerns over Beijing spying on highly sensitive camera feeds led to a government decision back in November to cease deployment of Chinese-made cameras on government property and to ensure such equipment is not connected to core departmental networks.

Ethical concerns stem from the use of the same surveillance kit to carry out human rights abuses in parts of China such as Xinjiang.

“It is abundantly clear from this detailed analysis of the survey results that the police estate in the UK is shot through with Chinese surveillance cameras. It is also clear that the forces deploying this equipment are generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies that supply their kit,” argued biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner, Fraser Sampson.

“There has been a lot in the news in recent days about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons 60,000 feet up in the sky. I do not understand why we are not at least as concerned about the Chinese cameras six feet above our head in the street and elsewhere.”

He added that in order to win public trust for the use of intrusive cameras, police must use the technology “lawfully, responsibly and according to a set of clear agreed principles.”

The commissioner also slammed the eight police forces who refused to participate in the survey.

“Myself and others have been saying for some time that we should, both for security and ethical reasons, really be asking ourselves whether it is ever appropriate for public bodies to use equipment made by companies with such serious questions hanging over them,” he concluded.

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