The increasing use of surveillance technology – including body-worn video, drones and number plate recognition systems – risks changing the “psyche of the community” by reducing individuals to trackable numbers in a database, the government’s CCTV watchdog has warned.
In his full first interview as surveillance commissioner, Tony Porter – a former senior counter-terrorism officer – said the public was complacent about encroaching surveillance and urged public bodies, including the police, to be more transparent about how they are increasingly using smart cameras to monitor people.
Porter stressed that he was not anti-surveillance and insisted he was helping to improve standards by encouraging the adoption of a voluntary code. But he added: “The lack of public awareness about the nature of surveillance troubles me.”
Porter, who was appointed to the independent role in March, is responsible for overseeing around 100,000 publicly operated CCTV cameras out of total of up to 6m surveillance cameras nationwide. He said: “When people say ‘the public love CCTV’, do they really know what it does and its capability? Do they know with advancing technology, and algorithms, it starts to predict behaviour?”