“Join the conversation #CameraDay2019!”

– I attend the keynote speech on 20th June by Tony Porter at IFSEC at the Excel in London.

My interest and surveillance drove me to register early on for this three-day event “bringing together more than 27,000 security professionals” the exhibition addressing threats like terrorism and cybercrime and exhibitors showing the latest surveillance products under one roof.

On with my tweed jacket and tie, jump on my motorcycle and ride down there.


I underestimated the scale of the event; countless stands, manned by companies assembled from Schenzen,  the personnel eating their noodles during lunch while on larger stands, middle-aged men in suits pace aimlessly about.

Tony Porter [1] the Surveillance Camera Commissioner opened the morning with his keynote speech. He identified his main concerns with establishing minimal default standards for IOT and web connected devices.

Porter has already worked for the police and intelligence services, working closely with key stakeholders in the industry to minimise misuse and hacking of surveillance devices in the field. He pointed out the necessity of CCTV;  “99.9% of murders are solved nowadays with CCTV evidence”. Porter describes his project ‘Secure by default’ and On this day, 20th of June 2019 he announces World camera surveillance day and, “we all join hands and celebrate the benefits of watching each other to ensure our mutual safety and freedom from terrorism and crime”. The room is filled with plump ageing men in suits. I count over 100, of which, only two were women.

A panel discussion follows; two overweight members of the industry sit next to an emaciated man (working for the counter cyber-criminal section of the police) and one tanned American dressed in a pale ‘gangster-style’ cobalt Blue suit with neatly ironed rectangular handkerchief.

The favourite phrase used? “my time in the industry over 30 years now” … I begin to feel a little uneasy, sensing but almost religious hysteria brewing in the room, but was relieved to see a gentleman on my right had already dozed off after the first five minutes.

Perhaps the UK and its rapid early uptake of CCTV by local authorities following the Jamie Bulger episode has equipped the police with the means to provide evidence in court but it has not been shown to be a deterrent for crime. Porter also welcomed organisations like Big Brother Watch to criticise him because ‘it gave him the opportunity to fight back’.

The tanned American informs us how many the US states have already prepared for a legalistic framework in the use of public surveillance.

I wander round the vast exhibition hall, row upon row of AI-driven ‘smart’ turnstiles, endless weatherproof cameras and sellers demonstrating AI and face recognition applications.

And I leave the halls feeling a unsettled, considering the immense commercial pressures to entwine into our private lives, beyond the concerns of social media – the South Wales police case[3][4], “a landmark case” as mentioned by Tony Porter, questioning if facial recognition should be used by the UK government will further decide our future. No doubt there will be queues of companines ready to exploit this area of surveillance capitalism. I should feel safer, but I dont.

Next visit: hearing from a completely different tribe,  Orgcon 2019, hosted by the Open Rights Group[2].

‘ORGCon is hosted by Open Rights Group. We challenge the government’s mass surveillance programme, protect free expression online, and push for better digital privacy protections. Join us for a day of discussions, debates and action. Hear some of the world’s leading experts on data and democracy, free expression and digital privacy. Hear Edward Snowden, former intelligence officer in cybersecurity for the NSA, CIA and DIA and whistle-blower talk about mass government surveillance.’

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/people/tony-porter

[2] https://orgcon.openrightsgroup.org/2019/

[3] https://futurism.com/uk-court-police-facial-recogntion

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/21/facial-recognition-tech-court-south-wales-police-face-scanning-consent

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