Drones, body-worn cameras and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems could all become subject to new CCTV guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Consultation on the revised guidelines began today as the data watchdog looks to ensure that such tools do not contravene data retention and privacy rules.
The ICO has already acted to curb the use of such technology, clamping down on a "ring of steel" ANPR system that was installed by Hertfordshire police in Royston and warning other forces not to do likewise.
Drone technology, widely used in the armed services, is now beginning to take off in the commercial arena, with Amazon claiming it would use drones to deliver packages in certain areas.
In light of these developments, Jonathan Bamford, head of strategic liaison at the ICO, wrote in a blog post that recognising these new technologies was key to ensure a balance was struck to keep privacy considerations in mind.
“Today we’ve begun consulting on an updated version of our CCTV code of practice that includes everything from automatic recognition of car number plates to flying drones," he said.
"Those two examples are both from the emerging technologies section, which perhaps makes for some of the most interesting reading. There’s a section in there on body-worn cameras, for instance, which have attracted headlines recently as the Metropolitan Police Service announced their rollout."
Bamford said the revised code of practice would focus on the same key principles that have underpinned previous guidance.
“While the examples in the guidance may be new to some, the underlying principles remain the same: organisations need to take the time to think through how cameras and the information they capture will be used,” he wrote.
“Because although CCTV clearly has its benefits, it can also clearly be intrusive. What thought’s been given to the views of the people it will be filming? What’s going to happen to the hours and hours of recorded footage and information? And what other less intrusive ideas have been thought about?”
To illustrate the kind of issues the new guidance seeks to address regarding these newer technologies, the ICO gave the example of a drone being used to check roofs for damage.
"Its use should be limited to that specific function and recording should not occur when flying over other areas that may capture images of individuals," it said.
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