Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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Ban on Chinese surveillance cameras at “sensitive” government sites

Government agencies have been ordered to halt the installation of surveillance cameras by Chinese firms in “sensitive locations” over security concerns.

The order applies to “visual surveillance systems” manufactured by companies governed by China’s national security law, which requires companies to cooperate with Beijing’s security services.

Whitehall Departments have been told that existing equipment should not be connected to departments’ core networks and that consideration should be given to removing them entirely.

The policy change was announced by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, and follows concerns in Westminster over the use of Chinese-made devices.

Mr Dowden told MPs: “The Government Security Group has undertaken a review of the current and future potential security risks associated with the installation of visual surveillance systems on Government property.

“The review found that given the threat to the UK and the increasing capability and connectivity of these systems, additional controls are needed.

“The departments have therefore been ordered to stop using such devices in sensitive locations where they are manufactured by companies subject to the National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China.

“As security considerations are always paramount around these sites, we are now taking steps to prevent security risks from occurring.”

Mr Dowden said “such equipment should not be connected to departments’ core networks” and departments should consider whether to remove such equipment from sensitive sites and replace it immediately, rather than awaiting planned upgrades.

Officials have also been asked to consider whether the same “risk mitigation” should be extended to sites not classified as “sensitive”.

The move follows concerns raised by MPs and a surveillance watchman.

In June, Biometrics and Surveillance Cameras Commissioner Fraser Sampson said: “Almost every aspect of our lives is now being monitored with advanced systems developed and bought by companies that are under the control of other governments, governments with which those companies share data and have obligations.” within their own domestic legal framework.”

The public surveillance infrastructure built on “digital asbestos,” Mr Sampson warned, “requires both significant caution in handling the products installed from a previous generation and, as a matter of priority, a moratorium on any further installation until we fully understand the risks we face.” understood have created”.

The Commons’ foreign affairs committee has previously called for the banning of equipment made by Hikvision and other companies whose cameras are said to have been used in detention centers in China’s Xinjiang province.

Hikvision cameras were reported to have been used at the Department of Health and Social Care, where security concerns were raised over leaked video surveillance of then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock kissing an aide.

Alicia Kearns, chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and China Research Group of MPs, welcomed the move but said it should go further.

The Tory MP said: “Removing Chinese surveillance cameras from the estate is a step in the right direction – but we can go a lot further.

“Public and local authorities should not buy from surveillance companies like Hikvision, which have consistently failed to expose their complicity in CCP (Chinese Communist Party) orchestrated human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other minorities in Xinjiang.

“Any ban should also be backed by a new national procurement framework that offers alternatives to state-backed Chinese technology that could be forced to transfer vast amounts of British citizen data into the hands of the CCP.”

A Hikvision spokesman said: “It is categorically wrong to portray Hikvision as a threat to national security.

“No reputable technical body or assessment has come to this conclusion.

“Hikvision cannot transfer end-user data to third parties, we do not maintain end-user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK. Our cameras comply with applicable UK rules and regulations and are subject to strict security requirements.

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