Chinese Camera Tech

Police Use of Chinese Camera Tech Criticised by Surveillance Watchdog

According to the head of a watchdog organization, the use of Chinese-made cameras by the police should be at least as alarming a security concern as the alleged use of spy balloons.

Forces were using kit despite acknowledging “security and ethical concerns” about suppliers, Prof. Fraser Sampson, UK Camera Commissioner, said.

He said this after a survey showed that the police were using foreign surveillance technology.

It happens at a time when attention on the UK’s use of Chinese technology has increased.

“There has been a lot in the news in recent days about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons 60,000ft up in the sky,” said Prof Sampson.

“I fail to see why the Chinese cameras that are placed in the street and elsewhere, six feet above our heads, do not cause us at least as much concern.”

Last year UK government departments were told to stop installing surveillance cameras made by Chinese firms on “sensitive sites”, because of security concerns.

The decision to implement the policy came as a result of concerns that businesses might be forced by Chinese law to work with Beijing’s security services.

The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, told the BBC that the government ought to take things a step further and get rid of all surveillance gear produced by companies with Chinese government backing.

All 43 of England and Wales’ police forces, as well as the Ministry of Defense (MoD), the British Transport Police (BTP), the National Crime Agency, and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), were questioned about their use of surveillance technology in the survey, which was distributed last June.

Along with the BTP, CNC, and MoD, 36 forces responded.

According to the responses, the survey discovered widespread usage of equipment that has raised ethical or security issues.

This affected:

  • At least 18 respondents’ external camera systems – 15 of which came from Chinese suppliers
  • At least 24 respondents’ internal camera systems – 21 of which came from Chinese suppliers
  • At least 11 respondents’ automatic number plate recognition systems – 10 of which came from a Chinese manufacturer
  • And 23 respondents who said they operate cameras on drones

For the effective use of new technologies, safeguards have been put in place, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which was quoted by the BBC.

It added: “UK policing will carry out the necessary reviews to make sure national security standards are met, following government guidance where governmental departments have been told to stop deploying such equipment around sensitive sites.”

Human Rights

MPs have expressed concerns about reported ties to alleged human rights abuses against Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority in China, as well as the human rights records of two of the camera manufacturers cited by police in the survey.

In July 2021, the Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report which said: “Hikvision and Dahua equipment shouldn’t be allowed to operate in the UK.”

A call for a firm-wide ban was backed by 67 MPs and Lords a year later.

Dahua has previously said that it follows “all applicable local, national and international laws, regulations and conventions” and has stated that it “has not and never will develop solutions targeting any specific ethnic group”.

Hikvision told BBC News that: “The claim that Hikvision poses a risk to national security is flatly untrue. This conclusion has not been reached by any credible technical institution or assessment.”

Additionally, it stated that Hikvision, as a manufacturer, does not store the video data of end users and cannot, therefore, transmit end user data to third parties.

The company claimed that it took seriously all reports involving human rights.

“As a leader in the industry, Hikvision is dedicated to upholding the highest standards and observing human rights.”

Furthermore, it mentioned that it did not deal directly with end users and instead sold its products through distributors.

The business declared that it supported any review of the UK police’s use of cameras.

Vital Importance

City of London Police, Gloucestershire Police, Greater Manchester Police, Gwent Police, Merseyside Police, National Crime Agency (NCA), South Yorkshire Police and Thames Valley Police did not respond to the survey, which Prof Sampson called “disappointing”.

The security of government entities and systems, according to the Home Office, is crucial.

“The National Cyber Security Centre has produced new guidance to help the police, and other organisations, assess and gain confidence in their supply chain cyber-security,” it said.

“We are dedicated to advancing the moral creation and use of technology, both domestically and internationally. We are keeping a close eye on the situation as we are aware of several Chinese technology companies connected to violations occurring in Xinjiang.”

Read More: Do Security Cameras Have Audio?

Source: BBC News

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