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this heartfelt advice had been followed
in Westminster right from the outset.
I’m clear in my mind as to where the
solution to the complex issue of video
surveillance connected to Artificial
Intelligence lies, but before going there,
there are three factors which I consider
to be a given. First, surveillance cameras
in society will continue to evolve in
terms of their intrusive capabilities.
Second, the police service and other
state actors will, out of necessity, seek to
exploit the capabilities afforded by
surveillance camera technologies as they
look to meet the sheer volume and
complexities of risks and issues from
which they strive to protect us. Third,
things have to change to satisfactorily
accommodate those first two issues.
The public and the state interest
demands the provision of a clear and
transparent framework to guide and
hold to account the lawful and ethical
use of surveillance. This will ensure that
current and future uses don’t go beyond
those which are necessary and
proportionate in a free society.
Time for change
The time for change has most certainly
arrived. Indeed, it arrived some time
ago. Overt surveillance has grown up.
It’s the rival in terms of some of the
capabilities of its ‘Big Brother’ (namely
covert surveillance) and is, indeed, a
fully-fledged ‘investigative power’ in its
own right. To my mind, it should be
legislated and regulated as such.
When Lord David Anderson
reviewed state surveillance capabilities
before the advent of the Investigatory
Powers Act 2016, he advocated a single,
independent, judiciary-led regulatory
body. The Investigatory Powers
Commissioner’s Office duly arrived,
bursting with judicial and investigatory
pedigree in the field of surveillance. My
view is that ‘a question of trust’ has well
and truly arisen in the context of overt
state surveillance and that nothing less
than an independent review of these
matters is going to be satisfactory.
I’m not anti-surveillance. I defend the
right of the police service and the state
to develop its surveillance capabilities
where it’s lawful, ethical and
proportionate for them to do so. I am,
however, anti-bad surveillance.
Surveillance which is ill-considered, ill-governed
and illegitimate serves only to
erode public confidence and, indeed, the
fabric of the safer society to which we all
aspire. Paradoxically, it erodes the very
confidence of the public which the state
actively seeks to engender through
surveillance in the first place.
Where there’s ambiguity or fog as to
where the line is in terms of legitimacy
of surveillance, it becomes easier for an
organisation to quietly overstep the
mark, whether innocently or otherwise,
and less easy for guardians to see it and
stop it where it’s not legitimate.
I remain cautiously optimistic that
Government will come to recognise the
true characteristics of state surveillance,
commission a review by an eminent
expert and allow the grown up
capabilities of overt surveillance to
finally join the ‘Big Brother’ house and
be regulated with the rest of its family of
This technology needs to be overseen
and regulated by a dedicated body. A
specialist in the science and philosophy
of surveillance with the credibility to
provide that assurance. It’s not simply an
‘add-on’ to another role.
Further, I’m also optimistic that the
fantastic men and women who comprise
this industry will afford my successor
the same energy and professionalism
that I’ve been privileged to receive.
Undoubtedly, that person’s role is
going to be hard and challenging
enough, but will be lightened somewhat
by the incredible energy and desire out
there to improve and raise standards.
Tony Porter QPM LLB is Surveillance
The time for change has most certainly arrived.
Indeed, it arrived some time ago. Overt
surveillance has grown up