What are the challenges of body-worn cameras for the security industry?
Body-worn cameras are becoming more common every day, driven both by needs of the marketplace and technology developments. However, questions remain about the usefulness of the devices, and their future role in promoting safety and security. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the challenges of body-worn cameras for the security industry?
Like any new technology, body-worn cameras are advancing quickly. Clients want action now, thanks to high-profile results from police forces and prisons, but it is key to consider how your investment can be made to work in the longer term, beyond next year. The best police forces have added two critical questions to their vendor questionnaires. Can my cameras be upgraded to add new features? And, is the evidence management system I will be tied to for the next 10 years flexible enough to support new cameras and technologies? Selecting a vendor that can already offer live-streaming, facial recognition, and HD cameras is part of the answer. However, making sure your vendor is committed to supporting you through a future of change is critical.
Body-worn cameras bring several challenges, not least the need to adhere to data protection regulations. Operators must warn anyone being recorded that the camera is on, which can bring particular issues with children, especially where a parent/guardian is not present. Data storage security is equally important – whether stored in-camera or remotely. If it is stored on a central server then adequate logical and physical security are needed. If stored on the camera, it is essential that it cannot be stolen or even torn from the guard’s clothing! A potential cost-effective and readily-available alternative to body worn cameras is using a smartphone. As many people carry them, they can become an effective security sensor. However, individuals are unlikely to want to use their personal smartphone (and a dedicated app), and practically there could be a crucial delay in filming an incident as many devices’ cameras are not designed for rapid deployment.
In my view, the biggest challenge for any company deploying body-worn video (BWV) will be the safe management (storage, redaction, sharing and deletion) of video taken, from a data protection perspective. Before deployment, an appropriate situational risk assessment needs to be carried out to identify likely parties impacted by the capture of video. Proactive actions need to be taken to ensure all parties are effectively communicated with (including visible notices that recording may occur). Moving to a business model where video is streamed in real time to a data safe location (like an Alarm Receiving Centre) is likely to make these challenges easier for clients to control. With General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now only six months away, security providers deploying BWV must think about these matters. BS8593 is a good starting point for guidance and advice.
The old adage that video doesn’t lie has never been more significant with the growing trend of body cam usage by law enforcement. Across the country, law enforcement agencies have seen a reduction in cases being dismissed due to lack of evidence, less combativeness from suspects and more accountability from police. The challenge of these cameras present is how can we use this information in real-time to aid in response rather than just being a post-event evidentiary tool. Integrating these live feeds with other security response systems, such as a physical security information management (PSIM) system, can correlate information with other data to provide a more complete picture. Associating these feeds with other nearby cameras, providing geospatial references to give context to the location and giving dispatches standard operating procedures to follow to more efficiently coordinate the response to events is what a modern PSIM platform can provide.
Every smartphone is a powerful camera. So, the technology employed in body-worn cameras is mature and ubiquitous. The challenge is to manage the video, to preserve its possible use as evidence, and to incorporate it into the broader environment of video management systems, intelligent video searches, and even face recognition/biometrics. There are also questions about the optimum use cases for body worn cameras: Should every police officer (or security officer, or school teacher for that matter) be equipped with a body worn camera? What are the benefits, and are there any downsides? The technology is taking off, but addressing broader issues about how the cameras are used and fit into the larger environment of security systems is just beginning.
The fast adoption of body-worn cameras is under way, but important conversations about the role of the cameras still need to take place. The genie may be already out of the bottle, but whether that genie grants our fondest wishes or creates a whole new set of problems remains to be seen.