Kensington & ChelseaMertonNews

Council trials ‘controversial’ surveillance technology from US company

An American technology firm has been in contact with two London councils and the Met police as it tries to bring an artificial intelligence (AI) powered surveillance programme to the UK.

The company, Fusus, announced that its real time crime centre (RTCC) is now “available to police and security agencies in the UK” after opening an office in Canary Wharf in March this year.

Kensington and Chelsea council, Merton council and the Met have said that Fusus has been in contact with them, with Kensington and Chelsea already trialing the technology.

A spokesman from Kensington and Chelsea council confirmed that a “short term” trial began on September 4.

The spokesman said: “We are exploring methods that in future could link the cameras on our housing estates back to a central point so it’s easier for us to review and download images when investigating reports made by our communities on issues that affect them, such as anti-social behaviour.”

Fusus has said its RTCC provides “critical” information that “speeds up investigations and emergency response”.

The system is a surveillance hub that streamlines video and surveillance technology into a central feed. 

CCTV feeds are currently monitored by council and police employees but the RTCC system would allow police and other authorities to analyse CCTV footage from multiple sources and use the data for predictive policing software. Speeding up a process that would normally take days or even weeks.

But critics have said that the use of technology like RTCC could lead to “surveillance states”. 

Madeleine Stone, senior advocacy officer at the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Evidence shows that blanket surveillance has limited impact on crime, but is disastrous for rights, civil liberties and community trust.

“If combined with intrusive biometric surveillance such as facial recognition, these centres would give police forces vast powers to monitor and track the public across entire cities and would be the death knell for privacy and anonymity in public.

“Local authorities and police forces should reject lobbying efforts from companies that profit from building surveillance states.”

Kensington and Chelsea council said: “The trial will not involve any changes to the way we share footage with other agencies – it would still need to be requested in line with the relevant legislation.

“We would not use this technology to allow any other agency to access live feeds or footage.”

A consultant from Merton council attended the companies new headquarters for a demonstration of their product on July 19, but the council have confirmed that they have “no plans” to work with Fusus at the moment.

The Met police also said that Fusus demonstrated its products at the Police Strategy Forum in 2022. 

A spokeswoman from the Met said: “Employees of the Met were present at this presentation and were in contact with Fusus after this event.

“The Met has no current plans to work with Fusus.”

(Picture: Scott Webb/Pexels)

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