Code will govern ‘Big Brother’

Legal changes still needed for CCTV

Many
of Cayman Islands laws must be amended to accommodate a new closed-circuit
television system the government plans to install along public roadways and
rights-of-way.

However,
the most significant change – the creation of a CCTV law in the Cayman Islands
– likely won’t be done before the first set of cameras are in place and
operating.

According
to government’s time schedule, requests for proposals to install the camera
surveillance system will go out in late June or early July. That process will
take about three months, officials with the Portfolio of Internal and External
Affairs estimated.

Once
the bid process is complete and a company is selected to build the system,
installation of the first phase of cameras might take another three to six
months.

It’s
anticipated the law governing the operation of the devices won’t be in place by
then.

Portfolio
Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush said last week that legal advice government had
received indicated that no new laws or amendments would be needed to actually
install surveillance cameras in the public right-of-way. However, he said a set
of operating procedures to make sure the system is effective and does not get
abused is essential.

“We
can’t afford to mess this up,” Mr. Bush said. “There will be a lot of eyes on
this project. Certainly the management and regulation of how the imagery is
used is very important.”

One
of the problems is that law enforcement won’t know exactly what issues will
arise with the cameras until they are in use. CCTV is used liberally by private
businesses in the Cayman Islands, but the Islands do not have any surveillance
cameras on public property and Cayman has never had an integrated monitoring
system such as the one now proposed. 

“I’m
not an advocate of rushing into legislation and then six weeks after having to
change it because [the plan for CCTV cameras] was thought up in a room…and not
used by practitioners,” Mr. Bush said.

It’s
not thought that the creation of a CCTV law would take years, but in the
interim Mr. Bush said a ‘code of practice’ would be drafted. Government officials
envision this as a manual that would guide 911 operators, police and other law
enforcement agencies on the proper use of the cameras. The code will also set
out penalties for abusing the camera system.

“This
code will eventually form the basis of the CCTV law,” he said.

One
of the major concerns expressed by Cayman’s private businesses during the
process of drawing up plans for CCTV was the possibility that the cameras’ eye
will end up wandering into people’s homes.

“We
need to ensure that these cameras will not intrude onto private property,” said
Chris Duggan of Butterfield Bank, who worked on the six-person committee that
helped design the CCTV system.

Mr.
Bush said government will have a “robust” camera management system in place,
and will use technology to help ensure that a person’s privacy rights are not
violated.

“What
we may end up doing is that, in areas where [the camera’s] field of view goes
into a private citizen’s yard…the management system would automatically
de-pixel the image,” he said. “So, you’d be scrolling and as long as it goes to
that angle….it would start to get fuzzy. Then, as it enters again into a public
area (the picture) would become clear.”

Speed
cameras that will also be used as part of the CCTV system will be able to show
911 operators pictures of the vehicles, including the driver and front-seat
passenger of a car or truck that is photographed.

The
way the cameras are monitored at the 911 Emergency Communications Centre would
make it extremely unlikely that people would be caught doing something untoward
in their vehicles. The system is “passively monitored” – meaning 911 workers
would likely not even be watching the screens unless they were first alerted by
police.

“It’s
not expected you would catch somebody smoking ganja in the car,” Mr. Bush said
as an example.

If
a 911 operator took a surveillance video to look at it, and couldn’t explain
why they did it; they would fall afoul of the code of practices, Mr. Bush said.

“They
will have to explain why they went back on the video to look,” he said.
“Mechanisms will be there to record those operating the system so auditors can
review it.”

Changes
to the Cayman Islands Traffic Law, as well as the Criminal Procedure Code will
have to be made to allow photographic evidence from speed cameras and automatic
licence plate readers to be allowed in traffic-related cases. However, video
and photos from CCTV cameras in criminal investigations such as robberies,
murders, burglaries and the like is already allowed.

It
is also envisioned that the position of the CCTV camera groups would have to be
gazetted – meaning they would have to be published in the government’s records
which are available to the public.

Some
changes to the Information and Communication Technology Law might be needed to
cover transporting data from the cameras to the 911 centre – if those transfers
are done on a wireless or fibre optic cable system.

Another
important legal change that will affect the operation of CCTV is the creation
of Cayman’s first Data Protection Law. That law will, in part, define how
images captured by the CCTV cameras can be used. That legislation is expected
to be presented to Cabinet later this year.

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