Smile for the camera: Live Redbridge CCTV footage to be available to anyone online

A camera in Ilford High Road.

A camera in Ilford High Road. - Credit: Archant

Footage of people shopping, driving and going about their business in Redbridge could be viewed by anyone on the internet under plans to put live CCTV feeds online.

Barkingside High Street and its shops

Barkingside High Street and its shops - Credit: Archant

Under the Redbridge Council plans, which have not yet been made public, live footage from 50 cameras around the borough would be viewable by anyone on its website from January.

There are around 250 cameras in the borough, constantly monitored at a control centre in Ilford.

The footage is used by police to identify and arrest criminals and by the council for parking enforcement and to investigate anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and graffiti.

The council website boasts: “Redbridge has one of the most advanced council CCTV systems in the country. Helping to keep residents and visitors safe.”

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But putting the camera feeds online would appear to contradict its own code of practice.

The privacy and data protection chapter reads: “It is crucial that access to and the disclosure of images recorded by the CCTV system is restricted and carefully controlled to ensure that the rights of individuals are preserved […]

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“Access to images by third parties shall be allowed only in limited and prescribed circumstances.”

A resident, who did not want to be identified, was concerned the online footage could violate privacy.

He said: “We all know now that with the internet and new media there’s a lot of capability to post videos around for everyone to see.

“But the danger is that there’s an opportunity to witness a crime before it can be taken offline.

“Also if somebody wants to spy on someone, they can do it from the comfort of their own home.

“With the development of smartphones, it will be a criminal’s Christmas present.

“They can simply view camera locations on their phone and be guided where to go and not to go to avoid camera view.”

There are already traffic cameras on the council website to show congestion, which are intended to be too far away to pick out individuals or numbers plates.

Emma Carr, deputy director of surveillance campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “The law is very clear that people shouldn’t have to fear that images of them simply going about their daily business will end up online available to their neighbours and New Zealanders alike.

“This policy flies in the face of the law and treats local people’s privacy with contempt. Whether children playing or a victim of crime, those images should not be available at the click of a mouse.”

A council spokesman said there will be a public consultation once details are finalised so any concerns can be raised.

She added: “We take residents’ privacy very seriously and we are considering our privacy and data responsibilities extremely carefully while developing this proposal.

“We have met with the Surveillance Commissioner about this project and will be speaking with him and the Metropolitan Police to discuss these proposals further if the project goes ahead.”

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