SURVEILLANCE TECH

652 Hikvision devices operated by local councils in Cambridgeshire

A spokesperson for Big Brother Watch called the county’s “vast quantity” of surveillance devices “deeply alarming.”

Two Hikvision cameras on Sidney St, Cambridge. Jay Richardson / the sonification
Jay Richardson

by Jay Richardson

14 June 2023

Cambridgeshire’s 3C Shared Services initiative has revealed it now operates 612 Hikvision cameras and 40 Hikvision Network Video Recorders across six towns and villages.

The shared technology initiative between Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and Huntingdonshire District Council disclosed the figures in response to a Freedom of Information request from the sonification.

3C Shared Services said it oversees 241 cameras and 4 NVRs in Huntingdon; 206 cameras and 27 NVRs in Cambridge; 109 cameras and 7 NVRs in St Ives; 42 cameras and one NVR in St Neots; 13 cameras and one NVR in Ramsey; and one NVR in Yaxley. The disclosure does not include cameras by Dahua, three of whose devices the sonification has found in central Cambridge. Like Hikvision, Dahua is partly owned by an entity controlled by the Chinese government and implicated in its genocide against Uyghur Muslim people in Xinjiang and Tibet.

The new numbers represent a significant escalation from previous reports by the sonification, which found 73 Hikvision and Dahua cameras in public spaces, and from figures revealed in 2021 under a separate Freedom of Information Request, when Cambridge City Council said it uses six Hikvision Network Video Recorders.

Madeleine Stone, Legal and Policy Officer at Big Brother Watch, said: “It is deeply alarming that local authorities in Cambridgeshire have installed this vast quantity of surveillance devices made by a Chinese state-owned company. Hikvision and Dahua are closely linked to the CCP’s genocide of Uyghur people in Xinjiang and their AI-powered cameras are normalising intrusive surveillance in the UK. Council taxes should not be funding rights-abusing companies.”

Neil Howard, CCTV Operations Manager for the Shared Service, declined an interview request from the sonification.

The cameras’ use has come under increasing scrutiny from Westminster in recent months. On 6 June, the Cabinet Office said it would instruct central government departments to actively remove surveillance devices built by companies subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, which includes Hikvision and Dahua, following an installation ban in November 2022. Australia’s federal government announced in February that it would remove the equipment from defence sites.

In addition to the 206 Council-operated Hikvision cameras in Cambridge, at least a dozen are installed at Cambridge train station, which is managed by Greater Anglia. Lucy Wright, a spokesperson for the company, said it had implemented “rigorous security processes across all of our CCTV network to prevent intrusion,” adding that its cameras “operate on a closed internal network which is inaccessible to the public.”

She  added: “We adhere to guidance set out by the Information Commissioner’s Office and all rail regulatory and other legal requirements relating to CCTV and video surveillance.”

Asked specifically about the human rights implications of purchasing the cameras, Greater Anglia spokesperson Dominic Rosso said the company “strongly refutes any claims that it is complicit” in human rights violations.

In November 2021, the VPN review site Top10VPN said it had identified over 6.3 million Hikvision and Dahua camera networks worldwide, using network scans to look for unique combinations of IP addresses and ports, combined with geolocation data. Top10VPN said it had found 254,529 Hikvision and 23,501 Dahua networks in the UK, with each network supporting up to 24 cameras. º

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