As first reported on BBC News UK website on 12th August 2013, a surveillance camera code of practice for local authorities has been launched. This code applies to all CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems and is designed to allay the fears if the Home Office after potential abuse or misuse of surveillance equipment in public place by the state was highlighted.

The code states that all surveillance cameras must be used ‘in pursuit of a legitimate aim’ and ‘when it meets a pressing need.’ Despite the upheavals in legislation campaign group Big Brother have questioned whether the code was both comprehensive enough to cover all unethical surveillance issues and its effectiveness.

Additional aspects of this new code of practice outline the restriction of access to, and the retention of data, as well as and encouraging both private operators and public bodies to strictly enforce the code for the sake of public safety. Contradicting the stance of Big Brother, the code states that when used appropriately the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice has a valuable contribution to public safety and security.

The views of those in favour of the new Code of Practice are clear. The code is considered necessary to ensure that individuals and wider communities have the confidence that surveillance cameras are deployed to protect and support them. Not to spy on them.

Here is a look at the 12 point Code of Conduct. All surveillance cameras must:

Always be for a specified purpose. This is the pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.

Take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy.

Have as much transparency as possible. This includes a published contact point for access to information and complaints.

Have a clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance activities, including images and information collected, held and used.

Have clear rules, policies and procedures in place. These must be communicated to all who need to comply with them.

Have no more images and information stored than which is strictly required.

Restrict access to retained images and information with clear rules on who can gain access.

Consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose, and to work to meet and maintain those standards.

Be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use.

Have effective review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with.

Be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value when used in pursuit of a legitimate aim.

Be accurate and kept up to date when any information is used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes.

These twelve points will better harness CCTV technologies and help put an end to CCTV systems growing without any proper oversight.

The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice

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