We sent FOI requests to all 32 London borough councils and the next 20 largest UK city councils asking for information regarding their video surveillance networks.
Of the 43 requests that were successful, 28 (65%) disclosed that they owned technology made by Hikvision. The Chinese surveillance firm has been accused of being “deeply implicated in the crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
Seven local authorities also disclosed they had technology made by Dahua, a Chinese company that has faced allegations of manufacturing facial recognition technology designed to track Uyghurs.
More recently, the company was accused of providing “real-time Uyghur Warnings” to police in China.
Both companies face strict trade restrictions in the US due to their alleged role in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Although the exact number of devices was often not revealed by the councils, our research suggests that millions of pounds of taxpayer funds have been spent on Hikvision and Dahua’s products. Hammersmith & Fulham Council alone disclosed that it owns 1,790 Hikvision cameras.
Public records show Hammersmith & Fulham Council had a contract worth £492,000 with Chroma Vision Limited between 2015 and 2020. Chroma Vision provided Hikvision technology to the council in their capacity as System Integrator during an extensive CCTV overhaul project, according to Hikvision. It’s unlikely, however, that the total value of the contract was for Hikvision’s products alone.
Local authorities have not just bought cameras from the companies. Eleven of the councils also confirmed they owned Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), Network Video Recorders (NVR) and other hardware made by Hikvision.
It is probable some of the NVRs are capable of facial recognition. However, no council confirmed it had used the technology for this purpose. The two facial recognition trials that were confirmed by Waltham Forest and Hillingdon Councils were not linked to Hikvision or Dahua.
Several authorities stated they had plans to replace their Hikvision technology. Camden Council even said that “it is against the Council policy to have assets from Hikvision, Dahua and Huawei,” although they acknowledged a Hikvision DVR was currently in operation.
Wandsworth Council said it was in the process of upgrading its surveillance infrastructure, which currently includes technology produced by Hikvision. “The Council are replacing all its cameras across the borough with an IP network. The system will be supplied by Dahua,” the council said.
Despite mounting political pressure and allegations of enabling human rights abuses, Hikvision and Dahua’s products still constitute a fundamental part of the UK’s surveillance infrastructure.
In December 2020, we detected over 100,000 active surveillance networks made by Hikvision and Dahua in the UK. The findings of this investigation show that local authorities are responsible, at least in part, for the companies’ huge presence in the UK.