Security cameras made by Chinese company Hikvision can no longer be installed in or on government buildings after Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden declared them “possible current and future security risks”. This came after calls for a nationwide ban from a group of MPs and colleagues, but it is not enough, according to the outgoing UK biometrics and surveillance cameras commissioner.
Hikvision is partly owned by the Chinese government and is the world’s largest CCTV supplier, serving schools, public institutions and secret laboratories in the UK. It supplies up to 60% of UK public buildings with CCTV according to a report by Big Brother Watch, which found that cameras from Hikvision and Dahua, another manufacturer partly owned by the Chinese government, have been used by the 73% of local authorities, 35% of police forces and 63% of schools in the UK.
There have been growing calls to ban its use, particularly in sensitive and high-security areas, in part due to Hikvision’s alleged role in aiding Chinese oppression in Xinjiang province and Tibet. The Big Brother Watch report said that Hikvision and Dahua participated in Chinese oppression of the Uyghur community in Xinjiang.
The UK government’s new decision includes a ban on the future installation of any security cameras made by companies subject to Chinese security laws and comes after a review of the security risks associated with surveillance systems on the government estate.
“The review concluded that, in light of the threat to the UK and the growing capacity and connectivity of these systems, further scrutiny is needed,” Dowden wrote in a statement to parliament.
It is thought that over a million of these cameras are installed on buildings across the UK, including government and publicly owned properties, watching every aspect of our lives.
This was stated by Professor Fraser Sampson, the outgoing UK biometrics and surveillance cameras commissioner Technician Monitor banning cameras from government buildings is “the easy part”, and now the hard work begins. ‘We need a risk-based timeline to address all problems, some of which can be resolved now, but others take years,’ says Professor Sampson. “We’re no longer asking if certain security companies can be trusted, now we accept that they can’t, but we need to figure out how to verify which ones can be trusted.”
Professor Sampson asks: “Do you want untrusted companies to check at airports, watch school playgrounds or hospital wards?” He gave the example of one such company which has won awards for child monitoring work on school buses in Scotland which is now on the new banned list.
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Hikvision cameras: an international problem
Beyond the schools, the question of policing was raised by Professor Sampson. This has been a thorny issue in recent months, with guidelines for officers using CCTV set to be scrapped under new UK data laws. He said: ‘Police is about trust and confidence. Once you lose trust in a company, as we have stated in the case of China’s CCTV companies, there is no place for them in any surveillance role. of the police. In which case we’ve now determined that some companies can’t be trusted, we shouldn’t even use them.”
He adds that the problem extends to all areas of public life covered by these cameras. “This is not a police issue, it’s democratic and it’s international,” she says.
The directive issued by Dowden also includes guidance for departments to disconnect cameras from major computer networks and urges them to remove them altogether where possible.
Some departments have already moved to remove cameras before the review is complete. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) removed Hikvision from its building and the Department for Health and Social Care canceled its contract with the company.
A group of 67 MPs and Lords have called for a nationwide ban on the installation of Hikvision technology, going beyond a ban on government buildings. The group calling for the ban includes Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, four former Conservative ministers, Labor MPs and human rights activists, and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
“We call for a ban on the sale and operation of Hikvision and Dahua surveillance equipment in the UK and condemn their involvement in technology-enabled human rights abuses in China,” the group said in a statement.
MPs raised privacy and security issues, which Hikvision denied in a statement to Reuters. He said he would try to engage the government to better understand the ban, adding that: “Hikvision cannot pass data from end users to third parties, we do not maintain end user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK.”
Dowden said departments must cease any further distribution to sensitive sites where it is “manufactured by companies subject to the National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China.” She added that “since security considerations are always paramount at these sites, we are taking action now to prevent any security risks from materializing.”