Body Cameras Used By UK Local Government To Catch People Dropping Litter And Walking Dogs

from the illegal-pigeon-feeders-beware dept

We've just written about the use of body cameras in UK schools. One reason these trials are taking place is probably because the technology is now relatively cheap, which lowers previous barriers to deploying it. So it should perhaps come as no surprise to learn from a new report from Big Brother Watch that body cameras are also widely used by UK local government departments (pdf). Here are some of the figures Big Brother Watch gathered using Freedom of Information requests to over 400 UK councils:

54% of all local [government] authorities across the UK are equipping members of staff or contractors with body worn cameras at a cost of £1,791,960.81 [about $2.2 million].

66% of local authorities are failing to completing Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) before deploying the technology and

21% of councils are holding non-evidential footage for longer than 31 days; the time limit adhered to by police forces.

The report has details about how many body cameras each local authority has -- one in London has 202 -- how much has been spent, and with which suppliers. It also offers some information about the kind of uses to which the cameras are being put:

the decision by some councils to equip staff with the cameras in order to film people dropping litter, walking dogs, parking or to monitor people's recycling, in order to use the "evidence" to issue a fine, we would argue is a disproportionate use of an intrusive surveillance capability and a potential breach of the privacy of law abiding citizens.

Many local government officials would doubtless disagree. After all, we know that UK councils are using highly-intrusive surveillance powers supposedly needed to fight terrorism in order to spy on excessively barking dogs and illegal pigeon feeding. It's a natural, if worrying, extension of that approach to start using body cameras for similarly trivial purposes.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 2:36am

    It's amazing how the UK has become 100% crime free and law enforcement can now go after angry babies crying too loudly.

    (bonus points if you got the reference from a certain game *wink*hint*wink*)

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 3:30am

    Well its worked so well fixing everything else, we can just keep deploying it for all of the ills of society.

    The only rights you have are the ones they allow, and if they can't be bothered to make sure they aren't breaking the law why should you care.

    How long until they use the CIA's code to give everyone a free tv preloaded with spyware so they can monitor better inside homes and transmit important messages to the people. It would make it easier to spread word of our great victory in Eastasia.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 3:52am

    Spying, great British hobby, second only to gardening.

    Wtf. Don't they have better things to do?

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

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 9 Mar 2017 @ 3:12am

      Re:

      They're also big on complaining... Australian joke (apologies if you've heard it before):

      Q. How do you know the plane from England has arrived?

      A. You can still hear whining when the engines have stopped.

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 4:39am

    The same Local Authorities

    Are these the same local authorities who are compalining that they cannot afford to provide proper care for the elderly and disabled - yet they can splash out £2M for this.
    Seems to me that the moment a sexy new technology for controlling people is on the agenda all the talk of spending constraints and "living within our means" goes out of the window.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 4:40am

    "... needed to fight terrorism in order to spy on excessively barking dogs and illegal pigeon feeding"

    Those damn terrorists - their damn barking pigeons are pissin' me off!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:04am

    Evil Flock

    Jay-walkers, litter-bugs, terrorists...

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:18am

    "the decision by some councils to equip staff with the cameras in order to film people dropping litter, walking dogs, parking or to monitor people's recycling, in order to use the "evidence" to issue a fine, we would argue is a disproportionate use of an intrusive surveillance capability and a potential breach of the privacy of law abiding citizens"

    I'm not seeing the problem. These are body-worn cameras. So, it can be assumed, there is a person wearing this camera. Having recorded footage to go with their eye-witness testimony relating to a fine sounds great to me. We now have some additional evidence to go along with their word that someone needed to be issued a fine.

    Nothing indicates that the cameras are somehow going where these agents have not been going in the past. The people being filmed are in public places or at least places in which the agents are allowed/able to go (and if this is not the case, we have the agent recorded doing something illegal).

    The only issues I really see here are a failure to complete the privacy impact (is there a law requiring this?) and holding the footage longer than the police do. The second item only seems like an issue if the police are limited to 31 days by law - if not, someone should propose a law to limit the time footage may be kept by authorities.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:30am

      Re:

      Exactly. You can't have it both ways. You can't demand every aspect of a cop's daily job be recorded for later possible scrutiny, then turn around and tell him to ignore something that is in violation of the laws of the community. These are people in public places breaking the law.

      So what's the deal? TD has multiple articles denigrating the authorities and their perceived over zealous actions, and waxing about how NOT dangerous their jobs are, but when they are equipped with cameras to ensure they don't overstep their authority, we get an article about how stupid they are for doing their job correctly and enforcing laws.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:30am

    So these are manned cameras operating in public? What's the big deal?

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

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 9 Mar 2017 @ 3:42am

      Re:

      Well, for starters you could see it as the thin end of a wedge, and something that's clearly not been thought through.

      These camera-wielding people are NOT police officers. They are local authority staff, or contractors even. So what happens if it's a child out walking a dog (and what the hell exactly's wrong with walking a dog for Christ's sake). There's been zero public debate about how far monitoring, or recording, or following, or contact between these pseudo-officials and children can go, if at all.

      It's nonsense that's going to end in a shit-storm, right before someone with an inkling of sense says "well, that was probably not a good idea" and dials the whole thing back.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 6:32am

    something else the UK has picked up from the USA! sooner or later the whole planet is going to be one massive police state, all started by the way the USA treats it's own people and even more so under the new President!

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    My_Name_Here, 8 Mar 2017 @ 7:45am

    I warned you, Masnick. This is what you get for demanding body cameras everywhere. Now you and your criminal buddies will pay dearly.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      I warned you, Masnick. This is what you get for demanding body cameras everywhere. Now you and your criminal buddies will pay dearly.

      Wut?

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

      • identicon
        Daydream, 8 Mar 2017 @ 2:02pm

        Re: Re:

        The issuing of body cameras brings police brutality (actual incidents and false claims of such) to an all time low.

        BUT

        Many more people are busted and fined for littering and walking on the grass.

        WillYouPressTheButton.com

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 10:33pm

        Re: Re:

        You and your buddy in the Whitehouse.

        /s

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

  • identicon
    Ron, 8 Mar 2017 @ 8:05am

    Dogs?

    It's illegal to walk dogs in the UK?

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


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