UK Government Refuses To Impose Privacy Rules On Surveillance Cameras In Hospitals

from the instead,-why-not-try-doing-what-you-already-tried-and-doesn't-work? dept

As we've noted before, the UK is infamous for the number of surveillance cameras that dot the land. They've become so much a part of British life that there is an official Surveillance Camera Commissioner, whose job is to encourage compliance with an official surveillance camera code of practice. The basic principle of the code is the following:

Use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.

However, the Commissioner's powers are very circumscribed:

The commissioner has no enforcement or inspection powers and works with relevant authorities to make them aware of their duty to have regard to the code. The code is not applicable to domestic use in private households. The commissioner also must consider how best to encourage voluntary adoption of the code by other operators of surveillance camera systems.

As that makes clear, there are no enforcement powers to compel recalcitrant authorities to bring their surveillance into line. Still, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner does what he can, for example by pointing out situations that he regards as problematic. Here's one he spotted: the increasing use of body-worn surveillance cameras (pdf) in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) hospitals.

The introduction of body-worn video cameras at several hospitals has increased my concerns. Body-worn video cameras are a particularly intrusive device as they capture audio and video simultaneously without the option of switching either off whilst recording.

As the Commissioner points out, hospitals are unusually sensitive environments for surveillance cameras:

The NHS trusts are complex organisations that use surveillance camera systems in public areas where people under surveillance are likely to be vulnerable and distressed, and where the privacy requirements and burden on those conducting transparent, legitimate and proportionate surveillance is surely at its highest.

In order to ensure that surveillance cameras are being used appropriately, the Commissioner asked the UK government to add NHS hospitals to the list of organizations that are obliged by law to comply with the code of practice. The UK government has refused (pdf), writing to the Commissioner as follows:

When we met on 18 October, I indicated that I was not minded to amend the code to expand the list of relevant authorities [that must comply with the surveillance camera code of practice] because I considered that we had not exhausted the possibilities of increasing voluntary compliance with its requirements. That remains my position.

Reasonable enough, you might say. Except that the Commissioner had previously explained to the UK government that he had already tried asking for "voluntary compliance", only to be told by the hospitals that "they could not enforce compliance with guidance that was not mandatory". A cynic might almost think the UK government doesn't really care what its Surveillance Camera Commissioner recommends.

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  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 25 Jan 2017 @ 3:53am

    It will be bad for the European economy but somehow the EU can be pleased that they are about to lose affiliation with the english government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 4:04am

    The UK hs become so concerned with knowing what every person is doing, 24/7, it has destroyed 99% of citizens freedoms, privacies and protections and ignoring the final 1% anyway! Hardly the best country in the Western World anymore!
    When th UK is compared to countries with worse surveillance laws and powers ans still cuts off thieves hands or stone adulterers to death, or have people disappear, comments like 'we dont do that' come out. That maybe true atm bht for how much longer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 25 Jan 2017 @ 6:06am

      Re:

      If any of that was in the least bit true, the hit-and-run rate would be a lot lower in areas that bristle with CCTV. It's actually not.

      My former colleague was hit by a car in Liverpool. CCTV all over the place. He suffered for months from his injuries and the driver was never caught. Do half of these cameras even work?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re:

        My brother was hit by a car while on a sidewalk in San Francisco with some friends. He was in the Hospital there for a while, and to this day still has eye site issues. Of course the person was never caught.

        I don't have a problem with Camera's out in the public outside. People are on Camera all the time, even in other places besides the UK, though the UK has taken it to a whole new level or 5. Body Camera's in hospitals I do take issue with.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BruceB (profile), 25 Jan 2017 @ 4:32am

    There's a very easy solution to the "peace sign dilemma". Just turn your hand around when you make a peace sign, with a slight upwards movement. No problems with fingerprints, and they'll get the message.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 6:27am

      Re:

      There's a very easy solution to the "peace sign dilemma". Just turn your hand around when you make a peace sign, with a slight upwards movement. No problems with fingerprints, and they'll get the message.

      And, for extra safety, just use one finger.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 4:35am

    Every member of parliament needs one in their bedroom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 25 Jan 2017 @ 8:16pm

      Re:

      On the one hand, eww, on the other that would certainly get the message across, though you can bet they'd be screeching about how it was a 'gross violation of personal privacy'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 25 Jan 2017 @ 6:32am

    a particularly intrusive device as they capture audio and video simultaneously without the option of switching either off whilst recording.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=cops+turn+off+body+cameras&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=+cops+turn+of f+body+cameras

    Pfft. They need to have themselves a little talk with Chicago and DC police. Amateurs.

    "The commissioner has no enforcement or inspection powers and works with relevant authorities to make them aware of their duty to have regard to the code."

    Kind of like what the FCC is going to become.

    Surveillance is like a weed. Unless stopped early it spreads uncontrollably.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    trump vader, 25 Jan 2017 @ 7:19am

    welcome to the pornospitals

    welcome to the pornospitals

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 10:15pm

    I wrote a paper for university that looked at public acceptance of surveillance cameras. A local newspaper in one town had polled people regularly over at least a decade. As soon as the term safety camera was used instead of surveillance camera, public support swung heavily in favour of them. They were introduced into that towns central areas fairly soon after this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 27 Jan 2017 @ 7:37am

    Obviously

    A cynic might almost think the UK government doesn't really care what its Surveillance Camera Commissioner recommends.

    Well, Duh!

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, we always dispose of the difficult bit in the title. Does less harm there than in the text.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2017 @ 8:12am

    UK government's ultimate goal is to have surveillance cameras inside people's houses. Like Big Brother.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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