Metropolitan police in the UK are "heavily reliant" on Chinese-based technology, such as cameras, drones, and other surveillance equipment that is suspected of spying, a report published by the UK's Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material (“Biometrics Commissioner”) and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Fraser Sampson has alleged. The report was compiled as per the findings from the Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner—OBSCC. UK's OBSCC is comprised of nine (FTE) members of staff that operate under the British Home Office. The office is responsible for processing personal data on behalf of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson.
British police were “generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies supplying their kit”, Sampson noted, speaking about the Chinese-built cameras. A questionnaire was sent to at least 43 police departments across England and Wales that included the British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence, and the National Crime Agency (NCA) enquiring about the use of CCTV, surveillance cameras, drones and helicopters, body-worn video and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) among other technologies being used by the British police forces.
“It is abundantly clear from this detailed analysis of the survey results that the police estate in the UK is shot through with Chinese surveillance cameras," Sampson was quoted as saying by UK's National news.
"It is also clear that the forces deploying this equipment are generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies that supply their kit," he furthermore said.
The watchdog noted that several police officers across the departments reported ethical and security issues with the surveillance cameras manufactured by China-based firms—Dahua, Hikvision, Honeywell, Huawei, and Nuuo. National security issues in the UK with Chinese technology come amid the threat of Chinese spy balloons that were shot down by the US in its airspace. The UK is now reviewing its security measures after a series of unidentified objects were brought down by the US military. Sampson noted that he was dubious about the Chinese-based technology especially after the Chinese spy balloon was seen flying 60,000 feet in the sky above Montana. "I do not understand why we are not at least as concerned about the Chinese cameras six feet above our head in the street and elsewhere," he reportedly stated.
“Myself and others have been saying for some time that we should, both for security and ethical reasons, really be asking ourselves whether it is ever appropriate for public bodies to use equipment made by companies with such serious questions hanging over them," Sampson was quoted as saying. British police also sounded concerns over the ANPR systems used by the officers, some even said that they were using the cameras manufactured by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd., or Hikvision, a Chinese state-owned manufacturer for recording the body videos.
Britain's allies such as the United States had earlier blacklisted the Chinese-based drone and camera companies. Recently, Australia's Ministry of Defense also announced that it is removing all the Chinese-manufactured cameras that it suspected of surveillance and potential links with the Chinese Communist Party. The United States blacklisted the unmanned aerial systems manufactured by the China-based firm DJI over surveillance and spyware issues. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified at least eight Chinese technology firms that were involved in the biometrics surveillance whom it suspected of collecting foreign citizens' data.