By Local Democracy Reporter
THE leader of Thurrock Council has promised there is no security risk linked to more than 50 surveillance cameras made by a controversial company in China – despite the US and Australian governments considering risks so severe they have restricted their use.
Thurrock Council has purchased 56 cameras manufactured by Hikvision, a Chinese company alleged to have supplied much of the technology behind oppressive surveillance states in Tibet and a north west region of China.
Hikvision is one of the biggest suppliers of CCTV equipment to the UK but serious concerns have been raised about the security of the cameras due to the company’s close ties to the Chinese government.
The concerns are so serious that they have been discussed in Parliament, and the US and Australian governments have placed restrictions on the use of Hikvision technology.
Addressing these concerns, Thurrock’s council leader Rob Gledhill, said: “Thurrock Council operates just 56 of the estimated 1.3 million Hikvision cameras installed throughout the UK. There is no security risk to the council’s CCTV cameras.
“All of the council’s CCTV cameras are operated on a closed network and a secure IT system, which prevents any third party access to its platform.
“The cameras have no internet access through council firewalls whatsoever, they are not connected to any wireless networks and our network prevents third parties gaining access to the cameras.”
The council added that they follow a “strict procurement process” where suppliers are required to provide detail information on their company’s past contracts, financial stability and insurance. All of the council’s CCTV cameras are installed and maintained by a company called Clearview.
The council was asked how Mr Gledhill can guarantee the security of the cameras considering the issues being raised as such high level by the Government in the UK and internationally, but they did not respond.
A report from surveillance watchdog Big Brother Watch found last year that at least one in four councils have experienced a cyber security breaches between 2013 and 2017, and there are 37 attempted breaches of UK local authorities every minute.
The council was also asked Mr Gledhill’s views on using taxpayer money to purchase products made by a company implicated in human rights abuses, including supplying surveillance equipment for facilities in China where it is estimated more than 1 million people have been imprisoned.
They did not respond.