British police forces are “pierced” with Chinese cameras, drones and other surveillance equipment, a watchdog has warned.
Biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner Fraser Sampson said findings from a survey conducted by his office (OBSCC) also suggested that agencies using the equipment “were generally aware that there are ethical and security concerns about companies that supply your equipment.
The findings come amid growing concern over the threat from Chinese spy balloons, prompting the UK to review its security measures after the United States shot down four objects flying in its airspace this month. Washington declared that one of them was Chinese spyware.
Meanwhile, security fears over the use of Chinese-made drones by police have also been raised.
The questionnaire, sent out in June last year, asked the 43 police forces in England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police, the Civilian Nuclear Police, the Ministry of Defense and the National Crime Agency (NCA), on their use and governance of CCTV and other surveillance cameras, including on drones and helicopters, body-worn video, and automatic license plate recognition (ANPR).
According to the watchdog, several of those surveyed said their camera systems use equipment about which there were ethical or security concerns, including companies Dahua, Hikvision, Honeywell, Huawei and Nuuo.
Sampson said: “From this detailed analysis of the survey results, it is abundantly clear that police property in the UK is traversed by Chinese surveillance cameras. It is also clear that the forces that deploy this equipment are generally aware that there are ethical and security concerns about the companies that supply their equipment.
“There has been a lot in the news in recent days about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons 60,000 feet in the sky. I don’t understand why we are not at least as concerned about the Chinese cameras two meters from our heads in the street and in other places…
“I and others have been saying for some time that we should, for both safety and ethical reasons, really ask whether it is ever appropriate for public bodies to use equipment made by companies with such serious questions about them.”
Of the 47 bodies and forces contacted, 39 responded. Police forces from the City of London, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Gwent, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and Thames Valley and the NCA did not take part in the survey, which OBSCC described as “disappointing”. “.
Some 23 of the 31 respondents who said they operate cameras on drones said they were aware of “ethical or safety concerns” about Chinese manufacturer DJI, the findings show.
At least 18 said their external camera systems use equipment about which there were ethical or security concerns. While at least 24 gave the same answer when asked about internal camera systems.
At least 11 respondents gave this answer when asked about their ANPR systems. There were also at least two who said they used cameras made by Hikvision for body videos.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said: “Following government guidance where government departments have been instructed to stop the deployment of such equipment to sensitive sites, UK Police will carry carry out the necessary reviews to ensure that national security standards are met.
“Model contractual terms and conditions are widely used in the police, and these include specific provisions for equality, diversity and human rights. These are imposed on contracted providers and would be used to enforce any breach of contract.”
More than two-thirds of the drones operated by police forces in the UK are made by a Chinese company that is blacklisted by the US, The Telegraph reported.
UK police data reportedly showed that at least 230 of the 337 drones operated by 37 police forces are supplied by DJI, according to data obtained under freedom of information laws. Some forces refused to disclose the companies that provide their drones.
A Home Office source told the newspaper on Tuesday that Home Secretary Suella Braverman had “concerns” about the use of Chinese technology in the UK and would want police to make sure all her data is ” secure and not vulnerable to any interference by a foreign state. ”.
“The police take all possible measures to protect and keep data obtained through the use of drones safe. The forces comply with both the surveillance camera code of practice and the Information Commissioner’s code of practice,” the NPCC added.