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.