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by Tessa Guthrie
01 April 2024
Scottish councils still using Chinese CCTV systems flagged as security risk

There are alleged security concerns over CCTV provided by Hikvision | Alamy

Scottish councils still using Chinese CCTV systems flagged as security risk

A number of Scottish councils still use CCTV systems flagged as a security risk due to their manufacturer’s links with the Chinese government, according to a recent freedom of information request from the Scottish Greens. 

Out of 20 who reported use of Chinese CCTV systems, seven Scottish councils have confirmed that they use CCTV manufactured by Hikvision. The company was one of 28 placed on a US trade blacklist after allegations about its role in the targeting and monitoring of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. US intelligence agencies have also raised concerns that the cameras could be used by Chinese intelligence to collect data from countries outside of China.  

Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer MSP is demanding that the Scottish Government cease use of Chinese CCTV systems for ethical and security reasons.  

Greer said: “China’s brutal dictatorship has built an all-encompassing surveillance apparatus which enabled it to imprison two million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, destroy democracy in Hong Kong and engage in decades of cultural genocide and human rights abuses in Tibet.  

 “Every Scottish council has a choice about the companies they do business with. There are few international crimes as grotesque and grievous as China’s mass internment of Uyghur people. Our public money shouldn’t be lining the profit margins of the companies enabling that oppression, especially when it also entails such obvious security and privacy risks for people here in Scotland.” 

In 2022, the Scottish Government committed to phasing out the use of Chinese CCTV systems, which included banning the use of Chinese CCTV systems on government property in order to improve security. However, hundreds of Chinese CCTV cameras are still in use by local councils.  

A 2023 report from the UK’s independent watchdog on surveillance said there was a risk that the systems could download automatic software upgrades enabling them to carry out surveillance that was not originally advertised as a capability, such as being able to read vehicle registration plates. 

Fraser Sampson, the former biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner, cautioned against the use of these systems. 

Sampson’s report said: “It is clear that the full capability of some of the technology owned by some respondents is not fully understood, be that at the point of purchase or further down the line when software updates are downloaded.” 

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