Government watchdog calls for review of foreign CCTV technology in Whitehall after Matt Hancock leak

Government watchdog calls for review of the use of foreign CCTV technology in Whitehall after a video of Matt Hancock clinch with Gina Coladangelo was leaked

  • Requested in letter from the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner
  • Fraser Sampson said ‘risks and considerations are complex and multi-faceted’
  • False claims blamed leak of Hancock clip on hostile foreign power such as China 

A Government watchdog has called for a review into the use of foreign technology in Whitehall’s CCTV systems following the Matt Hancock ‘Gropegate’ scandal.

Fraser Sampson, the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, has written to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, stating: ‘There is a pressing need to clarify the Government’s position on the risks and considerations arising from the extra-territorial ownership of surveillance camera capabilities operating within the United Kingdom.’ 

The affair of former Health Secretary Mr Hancock with his aide Gina Coladangelo was revealed in June, after footage of them embracing taken by a camera in his office was leaked to the press.

It led to false claims that he had fallen victim to a sting executed by a hostile foreign power such as China or Russia.

Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo inside his private office

Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo inside his private office

Mr Hancock resigned as Health Secretary less than 48 hours after pictures emerged of him in a passionate embrace with Ms Coladangelo, pictured together above

Mr Hancock resigned as Health Secretary less than 48 hours after pictures emerged of him in a passionate embrace with Ms Coladangelo, pictured together above 

Citing ‘widespread public comment on the circumstances preceding the resignation of the Secretary of State for Health’, Mr Sampson warned ‘the risks and considerations in this field are complex and multi-faceted’, adding: ‘The proliferation of surveillance camera systems and advances in the attendant technologies possibly represent a new manifestation of an enduring risk.

‘The impact on people’s lives engaged by the risks and considerations is not confined entirely to matters of personal data and extends to areas such as the so-called “chilling effect” on the extent to which people feel able to hold and express opinions, meet each other and demonstrate peacefully.

‘These are elemental constitutional entitlements which also need to be considered in light of the perceived risks of non-UK owned and operated surveillance systems.’

He said the Hancock case and the Government’s decision to restrict the access of Chinese firm Huawei to the 5G network presented an ‘irresistible opportunity to address the risks and considerations’.

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