Campus surveillance

Campus surveillance

Establishing a balance between personal freedoms and safety in universities

Richard Jenkins, Chief Executive at National Security Inspectorate (NSI). UKAS accredited NSI is the UK’s leading, independent third party certification body in the security systems, fire safety and guarding services sectors, helping to protect businesses, public organisations, homeowners and the general public through rigorous audit of more than 1800 security and fire safety providers nationwide.

Most university campus’ are ‘open’ environments where in one way, shape or form, people are free to roam. This poses a number of significant security challenges. High volumes of people visiting daily include teaching and support staff, students and visitors, event delegates and others. Universities are increasingly considering security arrangements in light of physical assaults, theft of equipment, and of course the constant vigil against potential terrorist threat. They are spaces where rightly, people should feel safe and able to trust measures are in place to counter these risks. 

Surveillance camera technologies are at the forefront of monitoring and managing digital video in security. The increased functionality of video analytic technology, ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) and facial recognition makes them increasingly powerful. Improving image resolution, data capture and intelligent retrieval apps continue to develop at a pace. Although excellent deterrents and means of data gathering, widening use means the scrutiny of personal data protection and privacy is all the more important.

Principles and practice for CCTV operation

The British Standard Code of Practice BS 7958 outlines the principles and practice involved in the management and operation of CCTV. Amongst other things it provides a framework for the detailing of clear policy and objectives in the use of a CCTV system, the secure storage of recorded images and the release of information - to statutory prosecuting bodies, including the Police and members of the public. It can then be used as a management framework for ensuring best practice in all aspects of management and operation of CCTV systems, including guidance on working conditions, appropriate use of equipment, the management of recorded information, and legal considerations including privacy and disclosure.

Installers can gain a Certificate of Approval from NSI against the full provisions of BS 7958 when they are able to demonstrate full compliance. It is an assurance of professionally and competently run operations, symbolised by the award and usage of the NSI medal and logo.

By requiring contractors to hold NSI approval against specific Annexes to BS 7958, universities can rest assured they will be employing the services of fully trained and security screened contracted staff to work in their in-house control rooms and sub-contracted CCTV monitoring services in external control rooms.

Whether outsourced or managed in-house, CCTV managed and operated in accordance with BS 7958 provides security managers with significant confidence that operations are fit for purpose.

Installing and maintaining CCTV equipment

NSI recently upgraded its own code of practice (NCP 104 Issue 3) for the design, installation and maintenance of CCTV systems. The newly revised code of practice is based on BS EN 62676-4 and provides installers with a structured approach to determining user requirements through appropriate risk assessment and site survey.

With modern digital camera systems providing high definition images, better accuracy in the recording and retrieval of information, and increasingly facial recognition, appropriate quality management and control systems must be in place. These ensure the correct use of CCTV surveillance and recording for the intended purpose, the security of recorded data, a guarantee that rights to privacy are protected, and that latest security software updates are rigorously applied to protect from cyber threats.

Images and feeds from surveillance cameras

Although it is commonly understood that CCTV operatives must be licensed, so also should their line management and executive. It can be the case that organisations running internal CCTV operations are unaware of these requirements and how they help to improve quality of operations. It can happen that organisations have contracted with partners to provide management and operation of CCTV and misread the importance and need for licensed staff. Organisations should review the SIA website and guidance related to SIA licensing to ensure they are operating within the law for CCTV monitoring.  www.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk/Pages/licensing-cctv.aspx

Public Space Surveillance

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner‘s (SCC) surveillance camera strategy provides direction and leadership in the security community, and helps CCTV system operators understand good practice as well as their legal obligations (e.g. regarding Protection of Freedoms Act, Data Protection Act and Private Security Industry Act). 

The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice raises standards by enabling surveillance providers to benchmark themselves, encourage continual improvement, and ensure surveillance is robust and fit for purpose.  This helps to deliver public confidence.

The Code sets out 12 guiding principles, striking a balance between protecting the public and upholding civil liberties. The principles provide a coherent and comprehensive structure enabling sound, transparent decision-making in regard to the use of surveillance cameras.

The 12 principles are as follows:

  • The purpose of the system
  • Privacy impact assessment
  • Transparency and access to information
  • Clear roles and responsibilities and good governance arrangements
  • Policies and procedures on the use of the system
  • Policies for the use and storage of images
  • Clearly defined rules for access to information
  • Plans for maintaining standards in the use and deployment of surveillance
  • Security of captured information
  • Effective review and audit mechanisms
  • Value of images as evidence for the criminal justice system
  • Consideration of other surveillance technologies that are in place

Since being appointed, the SCC has also created a series of tools to support the operators of public space surveillance camera equipment.  The first was a self-assessment tool. Now there are four self-assessment tools to choose from as well as a third party assessment scheme.

  • CCTV
  • automatic number plate recognition (ANPR)
  • body worn video (BWV)
  • unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones

NSI approval

CCTV companies can demonstrate commitment to good practice by way of the Certificates of Approval they hold issued by independent third party assessing bodies.  

NSI Gold approval includes certification to BS EN ISO 9001 (for a company’s Quality Management System) as well as its adherence to the relevant product standards such as BS 7958 and/or NSI Code of Practice NCP 104.

NSI is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), the UK’s sole National Accreditation Body, responsible for determining, in the public interest, the technical competence and integrity of organisations such as those offering certification services.

UKAS accreditation signifies NSI’s impartiality, operation of its certification schemes and issue of Certificates of Approval in accordance with International Standards for Accredited Certification of Management Systems such as ISO 9001 and Product Standards pertinent to security and fire safety such as BS 7958 for CCTV.

Companies that benchmark themselves against NSI approval schemes demonstrate commitment to the highest standards of competence in the delivery, operation, management and monitoring of CCTV and security services delivering protection of personal data for people on university campus’, deterrence of anti-social behaviour and unwanted intruders, and effective evidence sharing with law enforcement bodies when the need arises.

NSI approval provides assurance to university facilities managers that installers, operators and the management of CCTV systems and control rooms deliver consistent best practice in surveillance to protect individual freedoms and help keep people safe.


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