Protection of Freedoms Bill scrutinised at Global MSC conference debate

Global MSC Question Time debate panel March 2011
Question time: (l-r) David White of Global MSC Security, Chris Brogan representing The Security Institute, SIA chief executive Bill Butler, Peter Fussey of the Univ of Essex, Paul Mackie of CameraWatch and Alan Gardner from the London Borough of Enfield

The Protection of Freedoms Bill was very much the theme of the March 2011 Global MSC Security Conference, with many of the speakers left scratching their heads and wondering just what is the government trying to achieve with this piece of legislation.

During the Question Time style debate in the afternoon, panellists made many points including:

  • The Protection of Freedoms Bill is a government response to various myths and pieces of misinformation which have featured in the media.
  • The process and forms for RIPA authorisations are unclear.
  • Police sometimes put pressure on CCTV operators to conduct RIPA operations without authorisation.
  • The Government’s proposals to “further regulate CCTV” overlook the fact that there are already two regulators in place – the Information Commissioner and the Surveillance Commissioner – each with its own code of practice. A third regulator will confuse things further without adding much value.

A video of a portion of the debate is available below. The video begins just after a member of the audience asked the panel for their thoughts on the Protection of Freedoms Bill (apologies to Alan Gardner for cutting off the beginning of his response!).

Following that question, there was a question from Mike Tennant of Tavcom Training who asked how well would self regulation work?

Chris Brogan, an expert in privacy law, said not very well. He hadn’t seen a single example of self regulation working because the incentive was always there for companies to cheat.

Paul Mackie of CameraWatch agreed. He believes that the legislation currently in place should be sufficient to regulate the industry if it were enforced properly. He predicted that there will be cases which hinge on CCTV evidence thrown out of court because they breached the Data Protection Act.

Sitting in the audience was Peter Webster, CCTV manager at Slough Council, who challenged this, saying that the public didn’t even seem to care about their own data which they are quite happy to put on Google and Facebook with little or no regard for where it ended up or how it was used.

Bill Butler, chief executive of the Security Industry Authority, was on the panel. While agreeing that adding another regulator might not be the right answer, he pointed out that the Bill – which has had its Second Reading in the Commons – will now move to the Committee Stage where it will be subject to further scrutiny and can be amended significantly.

He predicted that, based on past experience, the Bill will be very different by the time it is enacted.

Derek Maltby, organiser of the event, said everyone in the security industry with an interest in the Protection of Freedoms Bill should make their voice heard. He encouraged everyone to write to the Government – care of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg! – and express their views.

Or contact your local MP – if you are a CCTV manager or other security practitioner, you may find they listen more seriously to you than they would to a lay member of the public.

More information
For more information about the seminar, visit the Global MSC website.

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