A head of a monitoring group has claimed that the deployment of Chinese-made cameras by police forces is just as much of a security risk as rumors about Chinese spy balloons.
Even though there were “security and ethical issues” regarding vendors, the military was still employing equipment, according to UK Camera Commissioner Professor Fraser Sampson.
He said this after a survey found that police departments have been using foreign surveillance technology.
This news arrives as interest in the usage of Chinese technology in the UK continues to grow.
“There has been a lot in the headlines about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons at 60,000ft in the sky,” said Prof. Sampson.
We should be just as anxious about the Chinese cameras hanging 6 feet above our heads in the streets and elsewhere, but I don’t know why.
Since last year, British government agencies have been warned against using surveillance cameras made by Chinese companies in “critical places” due to national security concerns.
Concerns that businesses in China may be compelled by law to cooperate with Beijing’s security services prompted the new policy.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns told the BBC that the government should take further action and remove all surveillance technology made by corporations funded by the Chinese government.
The Ministry of Defense, the British Transport Police, the National Crime Agency, and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary were among the organizations queried by the Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner in a survey sent out in June.
The BTP, CNC, and MoD were among the 36 units that replied.
From the responses, it appears that a lot of gear is in use, the security or ethics of which has been called into question.
It had an impact on the following:
- There were at least 18 different kinds of external camera systems used by respondents, 15 of which were made in China.
- Twenty-four or more of the respondents’ in-house camera systems were manufactured in China.
- Ten of the eleven respondents’ ANPR systems were made in China, making China the most common country of origin for such technology.
- In addition, 23 people indicated they pilot drones equipped with cameras.
According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, measures are in place to make sure that new technologies can be used effectively.
It went on to say, “UK policing will perform appropriate reviews to ensure national security standards are satisfied, following government direction where government departments have been directed to suspend the deployment of such technology around critical installations.”
Concerns concerning purported linkages to alleged human rights violations against the Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in China, have been raised by human rights MPs regarding the human rights histories of two of the camera manufacturers listed by police in the poll.
“Equipment manufactured by businesses such as Hikvision and Dahua should not be permitted to operate within the UK,” read a report issued by the Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2021.
Within a year, 67 members of parliament and the House of Lords had signed on to a motion to outlaw the companies.
Dahua has declared that it “has not and will never develop solutions targeting any single ethnic group” and abides by “all applicable local, national, and international laws, rules and treaties.”
Hikvision disclosed to BBC News: “Any claim that Hikvision poses a risk to the country’s security is completely unfounded. This conclusion has not been reached by any credible technical institution or evaluation.”
It added that Hikvision cannot transfer end-user data to third parties because the company does not save video data generated by its products.
According to the company’s statement, it takes human rights complaints very seriously.
Hikvision, a frontrunner in the industry, “respects human rights and is dedicated to keeping the highest standards.”
It further stated that it never dealt directly with consumers but rather only with distributors who marketed its items.
The firm expressed its approval of any inquiry into the use of cameras by UK law enforcement.
Meaningful or crucial
Prof. Sampson found it “disappointing” that the City of London Police, Gloucestershire Police, Greater Manchester Police, Gwent Police, Merseyside Police, National Crime Agency (NCA), South Yorkshire Police, and Thames Valley Police did not answer the survey.
According to the Home Office, protecting government infrastructure is a top priority.
To “assist the police, and other organizations,” analyze and “gain confidence” in their supply chain cyber-security, “new guidelines” has been produced by the National Cyber Security Centre.
“We’re here to help spread the word about how important it is to build and use technology in a responsible way, both at here in the UK and around the world. We are aware of several Chinese IT firms that have been tied to human rights abuses in Xinjiang and are keeping a close eye on the situation there.”