British police forces are “through” Chinese cameras, drones and other surveillance equipment, a watchdog has warned.
The commissioner for biometrics and surveillance cameras, Fraser Sampson, said in the results of a survey carried out by his office (the OBSCC) that companies that used the equipment were “generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies that provides their device”.
The findings come amid growing concern over the threat of Chinese spy balloons which prompted the UK to review its security measures after the US shot down four objects flying in its airspace this month. Washington declared one of them to be a Chinese spy.
Meanwhile, security concerns have also been raised about police using Chinese-made drones.
The questionnaire, which was sent out in June last year, asked the 43 police forces in England and Wales – as well as the British Transport Police, the Nuclear Civil Constabulary, the Ministry of Defense and the National Agency Crime (NCA), about the use and governance of CCTV and other surveillance cameras including drones and helicopters, body-worn video and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).
According to the watchdog, some of the respondents said their camera systems use equipment with which there were security or ethical concerns – including companies Dahua, Hikvision, Honeywell, Huawei and Nuuo.
Mr Sampson said: “It is very clear from this detailed analysis of the survey results that Chinese surveillance cameras are capturing the UK police estate. It is also clear that the forces using this equipment are generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies supplying their equipment.
“There’s been a lot in the news over the last few days about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons 60,000 feet up in the sky. I don’t understand why we are not at least as worried about the Chinese cameras six feet below our heads on the street and elsewhere…
“I and others have been saying for some time that, for security and ethical reasons, we should really be asking ourselves whether it is always appropriate for public bodies to use equipment made by companies with serious problems .”
Of the 47 bodies and forces contacted, 39 responded. The City of London, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Gwent, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police forces and the NCA did not take part in the survey, the OBSCC said. “disappointment”.
About 23 of the 31 respondents who said they operate cameras on drones said they were aware of “security or ethical concerns” about Chinese manufacturer DJI, the results show.
At least 18 said their external camera systems use equipment for which there were security or ethical concerns. 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 people who said they used cameras made by Hikvision for body-worn video.
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said: “Following government guidance where government departments were instructed to end the deployment of such equipment around sensitive sites, UK Police will carry out necessary reviews to ensure compliance national security standards.
“Model contract terms and conditions are widely used across policing, and include specific provision for equality, diversity and human rights. These are applied to contracted suppliers 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 firm blacklisted in the US, The Telegraph reported.
UK police data reportedly showed that DJI supplies at least 230 of the 337 drones operated by 37 police forces, according to data obtained under freedom of information laws. Some forces refused to reveal the companies that supply their drones.
A Home Office source told the newspaper on Tuesday that Home Secretary Suella Braverman was “concerned” about the use of Chinese technology in the UK and would want the police to ensure that all their data is “secure and that they are not at risk of any interference from a foreign state. “.
“The police take every measure possible to protect and secure the data obtained through the use of drones. Forces comply with both the surveillance camera code of practice and the Information Commissioner’s code of practice,” the NPCC added.