At least 24 British police forces across England and Wales have admitted to using surveillance camera equipment made by Chinese firms, including Huawei, Dahua, Hikvision, Nuuo and Honeywell, about which there have been security or ethical concerns. File photo by EPA-EFE/STR
Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Surveillance equipment Britain depends on for its security is riddled with camera technology from Chinese firms that have been flagged as national security risks due to links to the ruling Communist Party, or other ethical concerns.
An audit of public surveillance cameras used for helicopters, drones, body-worn cameras and license plate recognition across 43 police areas across England and Wales found forces were "shot through" with Chinese-made equipment.
Releasing the report on Wednesday, Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson called for a ban on the use of equipment made by Chinese firms identified as security risks.
The report from the BSC Office, which regulates the sector, also flagged up concerns within the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defense and transport police.
At least 24 bodies admitted their external and internal camera systems use equipment provided by Dahua, Hikvision, Honeywell, Huawei or Nuuo -- firms about which there have been security concerns.
Another 23 said they operated drones or unmanned aerial vehicles with video, audio, thermal imaging and night vision capabilities supplied by DJI, a Chinese manufacturer that was blacklisted by the U.S. Defense Department in November.
Sampson said the country's police forces and agencies were aware of the security issues posed by the cameras.
"There has been a lot in the news in recent days about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons 60,000 feet up in the sky. I do not understand why we are not at least as concerned about the Chinese cameras 6 feet above our head in the street and elsewhere," said Sampson.
While acknowledging police must sometimes be able to use intrusive surveillance technology in public places, Sampson said that to uphold public trust they must be able to persuade people that their working partners and providers can be trusted.
"Myself and others have been saying for some time that we should, both for security and ethical reasons, really be asking ourselves whether it is ever appropriate for public bodies to use equipment made by companies with such serious questions hanging over them," he added.
The report comes after the United States shot down a giant high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon off the South Carolina coast after it had drifted across the country.
U.S. fighter jets downed further three as yet unidentified objects on Friday, Saturday and Sunday over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron.
Last week Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles announced plans to remove Chinese-made cameras from government buildings over security concerns.
Marles said the cameras would be removed from government buildings following an audit by Australian Cyber Security Shadow Minister James Paterson that found at least 913 cameras made by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua were installed at 250 government buildings.