BBC live aerial cameras routinely filming the streets of London

On the 14th of August a man decided to run his car into the central reservation near the UK parliament building.  He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of a terrorism act.  The BBC reported it on their website here.   They also tweeted the footage of the event from a live aerial camera, where a the presenter states they are “BBC pictures from an aerial camera”.

All fine and good, great that we can see the events as they happen.  But how many of these live aerial cameras do the BBC have?   Presumably recording all day just in case any newsworthy event may occur.

A Freedom of Information (FOIR) request was put to the BBC to determine just how many of these live recording cameras they have.

1) Please advise who the camera, taking the video footage, belongs to.
2) How many separate video feeds like this does the BBC have access to in London?
3) Are the video feeds the BBC has access to, via such cameras, live/in real time?
4) Are the cameras fixed or mobile, i.e. designed to be moved around different locations.
The BBC declined to answer citing Part VI of Schedule 1, which exempts them answering if the data “is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’
The BBC stated,

The BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the Act.  If you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information Commissioner.” 

So an appeal has been sent, full details of which are here.  The outline of concerns about the nature of these cameras are that:
  • they, presumably, are recording 24/7 – in effect a surveillance camera
  • the appropriate CCTV signage should be displayed informing people that they are being recorded
  • a Privacy Impact Assessment should have been carried out
  • does the BBC use of such camera/s adhere to the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s ‘Surveillance camera code of practice 
  • it could be argued that the vast majority of the footage is not used for broadcast or journalistic purposes, thereby making the BBC able to answer the FOIR
  • if such images help to solve a crime then access could be had by the police and security services
With the growing quantity of data from cameras that can have artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and biometric alerts, such as facial recognition, gait and clothing identification applied to the footage, really careful consideration of such camera/s use should be adopted by the BBC and transparency with their use should be forthcoming to the public who are being recorded.  Such accountability should be what the Freedom of Information Act gives.

Update to follow.

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