Earlier this year, the UK government made it mandatory for enforcement agents to use body-worn cameras during enforcement visits. This is a strong ruling, which we hope will protect debtors, agents, and creditors from bad behaviour and false accusations. Accountability is important in any industry - but especially so in an industry that may involve agents going into the homes of others and removing their goods.
However, as anyone who’s ever pointed their phone camera at a crowd knows, filming the general public is fraught with legal and moral complications.
What have we not considered about body-worn cameras?
What have we not considered? Simple: bystanders.
Most houses entered during an enforcement visit have people other than the debtor present. More troublingly, many houses are home to young children, not all of whom will be fully dressed when a visit occurs. Filming is vital to check on the behaviour of agents and to hold everyone involved in the visit accountable - but there are obvious privacy, safety, and data protection concerns inherent in having bystanders’ data captured and stored.
What can we do?
There are two options to solve this problem:
- Instruct enforcement agents to stop filming when bystanders enter the shot. This is a simple solution, certainly, but possibly not a particularly effective one. For a start, it puts an extra onus on enforcement agents during what can be a difficult part of their job. More troubling, however, is the fact that giving an agent the option to stop filming could open a loophole via which agents could behave inappropriately without being filmed. This is something we’d like to avoid at all costs.
- Use modern technology to focus on filming only what’s important. YouTube and Skype are currently working on intelligent background blur technology, which will be able to blur anyone in shot who’s not the cameraperson’s direct subject. By investing in and implementing this kind of technology, we can blur out anyone who’s not directly involved in the enforcement process during the visit. This will enable us to keep all footage without endangering the rights or privacy of bystanders.
Option two is the option Just will be going for. Implementing this kind of technology is likely to be expensive, but we feel that the expense is worth it in order to maintain accountability while also protecting people’s data and the reputations of the creditor who instructs us.
About the Author: Peter Daines
Peter Daines has held senior operational positions within both the Civil and High Court Enforcement industry for over 20 years at various national organisations. Peter is a certificated enforcement agent himself and has held this accreditation for 20 years.