Increasing surveillance led by councils and the police
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Increasing surveillance led by councils and the police

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The Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Tony Porter, has recently spoken of his concerns regarding the technology used by local councils and the police to monitor public movements.

As the government watchdog designed to ensure government compliance with the surveillance camera code of practice, it is worrying that the commissioner believes the restrictions on local authorities may not be sufficient.

In particular, Mr Porter reportedly warned that the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras is unregulated by central government, likening their usage to MI5 tracking. In fact, the security services are subject to much tighter restrictions, while the level of surveillance led by councils and the police appears to be going under the radar.

At Your Lawyers – The Data Leak Lawyers – we always advocate for personal privacy, so it is worrying that the government may be unnecessarily storing data and information pertaining to members of the public.

The threat of increased surveillance

For the purposes of crime-fighting, tools like ANPR can undoubtedly be valuable. Mr Porter himself recognised that the cameras can help to carry out searches for missing people or to locate criminals.

However, it is understood that councils and the police do not pick and choose which records are of use to them, instead storing swathes of public data recorded by these cameras. In fact, the country’s ANPR database now amounts to 60 billion vehicle registrations per year, with Mr Porter describing the system as one of the “largest non-military databases” in Western Europe.

The Police Federation of England and Wales criticised the prospect of new measures restricting surveillance, claiming that the police service is already under immense pressure due to the increased strain of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Mr Porter believes that increased regulation is needed to ensure that the police conform to a strict code, which would include sanctions if the rules are breached. He stressed that new measures could help to improve public confidence in the surveillance systems of councils and the police.

Data handling by councils and the police

Unfortunately, public confidence in the data handling of councils and the police has been worn away in recent years due to data leaks at local authorities frequently hitting the headlines. A pertinent one of these is the Sheffield Council data breach, which saw the council’s unsecured ANPR database expose 8.6 million records of car journeys, due to an error that allowed the system to be accessed without a password.

The security risks potentially presented by this data breach were severe, and it is entirely reasonable that the public question the extent of surveillance given that councils and the police have given them little reason to have faith in their ability to protect public data.

The Data Leak Lawyers and data protection

At Your Lawyers – The Data Leak Lawyers – we have taken forward claims against many local councils who have failed to protect our clients’ data, and the risk of such data breaches will not lessen if public surveillance is not properly regulated. This is also the case for claims against the police as well.

If you believe you have been affected by a data breach for which a local council or police branch are responsible for, do not hesitate to contact us, as you may be entitled to claim compensation.

We can offer free, no-obligation advice before we initiate claims, and we can offer No Win, No Fee representation to eligible clients.

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