Advocacy matters: once again on G4S, asylum accommodation and body-worn cameras.

A few developments to report on following our piece last month about G4S’ introduction of body- worn cameras, using surveillance technology in apparent breach of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s Guidelines. [ http://asirt.org.uk/wordpress/?p=315 ].

While we were told at a recent regional voluntary sector meeting by G4S’ Head of Business Services that the company would not be releasing its Privacy Impact Assessment – which it does claim to have carried out- or reviewing its practice of recording each and every interaction with service users in its care, on the basis that it was ‘felt’ that enough had been done to comply with the Commissioner’s codes, there has been a welcome climb-down from this position, following the intervention of the national press.

We now understand that, following dialogue with the  Information Commissioner’s Office, staff will only turn on cameras ‘when they feel intimidated or threatened’-a position in line with that of the police and parking enforcement officers. [ https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/24/g4s-limit-filming-asylum-seekers-in-homes-without-consent?CMP=share_btn_fb  ]

Welcome though this reversal on G4S’ part is, other concerns remain. It appears that G4S now proposes to delete footage, at its discretion, after 30 hours, rather than on a daily basis. This, however, still remains well short of the 40 days recommended by the ICO. Similarly, there remains no clarity whatsoever about the process by which asylum seekers might access footage obtained by G4S during incidents in which staff feel intimidated or threatened and, in the absence of such clarity, it remains a concern that service users’ expressions of dissatisfaction with the service provided by G4S could be construed as aggressive or intimidating, with cameras used as a sanction effectively to quell dissent. To whom do asylum seekers or their advocates write for footage of incidents recorded on those occasions G4S operatives consider recording necessary?.

Similarly, where actually is the Privacy Impact Assessment the ICO’s guidance suggests should have been conducted, and which G4S maintains has been done? With whom did G4S consult during the assessment process, and what is behind the reluctance to  make the document public?

We are also conscious of the lack of information provided to date by G4S relating to the 73 incidents of assault or threatening behaviour which are claimed to have been recorded over the past year. Have 73 individuals been convicted of such incidents, and what sort of behaviour is G4S regarding as threatening? What training and guidance around de-escalating potential conflict situations is being given?

Again, to be clear, ASIRT regards one incident of violence against an individual going about their lawful business as one incident too many, but we do consider it essential that there is some clarity, transparency and  attention to due process when allegations of violent behaviour are voiced against a particular group of people

We will continue to seek clarity around these matters, and will post further updates as soon as we are able..

 

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