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Transport needs to adopt new strategy to protect cyber surveillance data, says UK security chief.

Posted on 23-Jan-2018 10:15:00

Facial recognition surveillance technology"TfL strongly supports the role of the strategy in helping to mitigate the effect of new surveillance camera technologies on individuals and communities."

Transport operators’ surveillance footage is at increasing threat from hackers looking to gain illegal access to data, requiring a different strategy to help secure it and heightening the need to protect the general public's personal data.

They are the thoughts of the UK’s pre-eminent expert on cybersecurity, Tony Porter, surveillance camera commissioner for England and Wales, who used his fourth annual report on cyber security to address the issue. Porter who was appointed by the home secretary in 2014, wrote in the 68-page document that cyber security “has moved to the top of the security agenda” and urged those involved to dispense with a whole-system approach around its regulation – something that had become increasing irrelevant in the modern era.

Published this month and covering the year up to April 2017, Porter said that the ever-increasing standards around the regulation of surveillance camera systems meant that his efforts ability to bring about improvements of its use in public spaces were “hampered”. He highlighted the advanced nature of today’s surveillance technology (costing the UK around £2.2bn a year) singling out automatic facial recognition (AFR) as an area that has developed massively since a report he published in 2014 on the technology.

Tony Porter, surveillance camera commissioner“When I commenced my commission in March 2014 its use was limited, and whilst there were aspirations for its extended use – from controlled environments such as at our national borders – the technology was not able to deliver against its promises. The position has since changed,” proved, said Porter, by London’s Metropolitan Police force in August 2016 at Europe’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival.

“The police used a data base of photographs arising from its own Electronic Wanted and Missing System. The database was populated with images of persons previously banned from the carnival or where there were grounds to believe people may commit an offence,” explained Porter.

Surveillance Camera Commissioner.jpgPorter’s thoughts were backed by the commissioner of transport for Transport for London (TfL), Mike Brown. “TfL strongly supports the role of the strategy in helping to mitigate the effect of new surveillance camera technologies on individuals and communities, so that their privacy is protected,” said Brown. Porter said TfL is one of the largest operators of surveillance camera equipment in the UK with in the region of 20,000 cameras including  CCTV and automatic number plate recognition cameras – data that TfL shares with the police.

This year’s report includes information from a previous report by commissioner Porter, who was previously head of Intelligence at Barclays Bank, on the subject of surveillance such as the use of body cameras that are being used by a growing number of UK transport authorities.


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Topics: Rail&MetroSecurity, UrbanSecurity, CyberSecurity

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Dave Songer
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