Laura Sharman 26 April 2022

Call for clarity on local government's use of Hikvision surveillance cameras

Call for clarity on local governments use of Hikvision surveillance cameras image
Image: Stefano Carnevali / Shutterstock.com

Local government minister, Michael Gove, has been urged to clarify his position on buying surveillance cameras from tech company Hikvision.

The biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner, Fraser Sampson, warned there are 'serious unanswered' questions about the company's involvement in human rights abuses.

Cameras and facial recognition technology from Hikvision, which is part-owned by the Chinese state, have been implicated in systematic human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other minorities in the Xinjiang province of China.

Professor Sampson said the company has been 'unwilling or unable' to provide assurances about the ethics of its operations or security concerns for the past eight months.

According to media reports, the company has been banned from competing for new business in the Department of Health following 'ethical concerns' about the company.

The commissioner has now written to central and local government ministers asking them to clarify their positions on buying equipment from the company.

Professor Sampson said: 'If companies won’t provide the information needed to do proper due diligence in relation to ethics and security, then they clearly should not be allowed to bid for contracts within government, or anywhere else in the public sector for that matter. If Mr Javid has banned Hikvision for those reasons, then he should be congratulated.

'If the decision as reported is true, the same considerations would apply equally to all branches of government, and, arguably, the whole of the public sector. If other areas of national and local government have carried out due diligence in relation to their human rights obligations, I’d be interested to see the information they used; if they haven’t then I’d be interested to understand how the risks are being properly addressed.'

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