Fascinating questions about CCTV at the House of Lords

On Thursday morning a Conservative member of the House of Lords called Ian Macpherson who is also referred to as Lord Strathcarron asked a question under the headline of CCTV – Question and the Minister who responded to his question was Stephen Parkinson who is the Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay. Interestingly my piece yesterday focused on Broadcasting: Children’s Television – Question which also happened on Thursday morning and it was also responded by Stephen Parkinson. That theme involved questions from Floella Benjamin and also Steve Bassam who is our local member of the House of Lords. As it happens Steve also involved a question about CCTV although sadly he received a very low quality response. The CCTV session took place straight after the Children’s Television session and it can be seen here. As it happens I am part of a Company called Ashdown Audio Visual based in Sussex and we provide CCTV systems for settings such as homes, Churches and Schools. We also know some of the larger CCTV specialist companies that do the work for much larger settings. So here are the questions from Ian Macpherson and the responses from Stephen Parkinson.

Ian Macpherson: To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to commission an independent review of the (1) scale, (2) capabilities, (3) ethics, and (4) impact on rights, of CCTV in the United Kingdom.

Stephen Parkinson: My Lords, His Majesty’s Government have no plans to commission an independent review of the use of closed circuit television. The Government support the appropriate use of technologies such as CCTV to tackle crime and give the public greater confidence about using our public spaces, provided that its use is lawful, transparent and fair and in accordance with relevant guidelines.

Ian Macpherson: I thank my noble friend the Minister for the reply. The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, has already highlighted to the House the dangers posed by Chinese state-owned facial recognition companies Hikvision and Dahua. Is the Minister aware that this technology is now openly available on a far more intrusive smartphone level from other Chinese state-owned companies such as PimEyes? Is he also aware of the very real threats this will pose—and not just to politically exposed persons such as your Lordships? Absolutely anybody can be tracked and traced anywhere at any time. It is not hyperbolic to say that, if left unchecked, these applications will entirely alter our concept of privacy and be open sesame to snoopers, stalkers, blackmailers, cybercriminals and bad actors of every kind.

Stephen Parkinson: All organisations in the UK that possess personal data have to comply with the requirements of our data protection legislation. The Information Commissioner’s Office is our independent regulator for data protection and is responsible for providing advice and guidance on compliance with the law. The ICO is currently considering whether PimEyes’ practices may raise data protection concerns. I hope that my noble friend will understand that it is not appropriate for me to comment on an ongoing ICO investigation.

After a few more people who raised questions here is the question from Steve and the response from Stephen which certainly seemed to be a bit vague.

Steve Bassam: My Lords, there is an opportunity here for the Government to get something right. The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill received Royal Assent, as the Minister knows, in early December. Its security provisions are designed to improve the security of smart products—a category that includes CCTV doorbells. Is the Minister able to provide some updates on commencement of Part 1 of the Act, or on the laying of relevant regulations and guidance, given that this will be the subject of some intense debate—and given, too, the potential privacy issues that will arise if security vulnerabilities in personal CCTV products can be exploited, as we now know, by bad actors?

Stephen Parkinson: I cannot provide an update on dates by which those things will be commenced, but the noble Lord is right to point to the legislation that we have taken through, which grapples with this important topic, the scrutiny given in Parliament and the change that it will make to the regulation of these sensitive technologies.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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