Surprisingly, the UK Has a Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner: He’s Rather Good

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CCTV surveillance has been covered many times on PIA blog. Most of the stories are depressing tales of increased surveillance and loss of privacy. One of the worst offenders in the CCTV camera stakes is the UK. An estimate from 2020 put the number of cameras there at over 5 million, while London enjoyed the dubious distinction of having the third-highest number of CCTV cameras of any city in the world according to another report from the same year. Against that dismal background it comes as something of a surprise to find that the UK has a formal Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner who watches over this area, a position currently held by Professor Fraser Sampson. He has wide-ranging experience in the criminal justice sector; in the past he has been a police officer, lawyer and academic.

In addition to a Surveillance Camera Commissioner, the UK has a Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, which it has updated recently. In a letter from Sampson to relevant UK government bodies, he explained that the Code applied to overt surveillance camera systems such as the UK’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition system, facial recognition technology, body-worn video cameras, drone-borne cameras, helicopter-borne cameras and CCTV systems (both static and mobile), where these are used by certain categories of government authorities. Other operators of CCTV surveillance systems, for example in the private sector, are encouraged to adopt the code voluntarily.

An article on the IPVM site reports that Sampson spoke at the National CCTV Conference in

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