Surveillance cameras to be installed nationwide

A committee has been formed to enforce a plan aimed at securing vital facilities, main roads and public squares by installing surveillance cameras nationwide.

The committee, headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, is comprised of members of National Security, as well as the Interior Ministry’s communication systems and information technology departments, and Military and General Intelligence personnel.

It is tasked with evaluating the security situation around the country, with the aim of installing surveillance cameras and connecting them with the national network for security surveillance, according to the decree published in the official gazette.

The committee will also communicate with experts in the field to adopt the most recent surveillance techniques, implement plans and policies to activate the use of surveillance cameras, and outline a set of guidelines for citizens to follow.

The decree stipulated that the Ministry of Finance is set to contract one of the companies specialized in the field to aid with the implementation of the plan.

Ihab Youssef, a former counter-terrorism official with the Ministry of Interior, who runs a risk and security consultancy, as well as an NGO that pushes for police reform, welcomed the use of technology to maintain security.

Installing cameras has many advantages, he told Mada Masr. He explained that surveillance cameras will capture footage that will enable security to analyze crimes that take place publicly.

Footage can also be used as evidence for the judge in any given case, Youssef explained.

He explained that the security situation has to be carefully assessed, and a map must be outlined to determine where the cameras will be installed.

“It can’t be random,” he asserted.

Youssef further explained that security forces need to determine what it is exactly they want the cameras to do in order to decide on the specifications required.

“Do we want it to show us a car’s license plates, for example?” he asked, “If so, we will need clear footage, so that when images are enlarged they won’t be pixelated.”

He cited the bombing of the Cairo Security Directorate in January 2014, when surveillance footage from across the street showed a car parked in front the directorate and eventually exploding. He said the footage wasn’t helpful because the images were unclear and pixelated when enlarged, and couldn’t be used to identify the driver or the license plates.

Youssef also suggested installing “smart softwares” that can alert security of certain incidents.

“You can program it to alert you, for example, when someone leaves a bag unattended at the airport for a specified amount of time,” he explained.

Youssef also highlighted the importance of determining where the data will be stored.

“If the data is stored in the same place where there is an explosion,” he said, “we will lose all of it.” He explained that the footage needs to be saved in a different place in order for it to be retrieved.  

Youssef predicts that such a security system may be misused at first, suggesting that a set of rules be put in place.

“If we have cameras installed in Sharm el-Sheikh, for example, there will be footage of people walking around in their bathing suits. We have to make sure someone doesn’t take that footage and uploads it somewhere,” he warned.

Youssef advised investing in the surveillance cameras, but “taking time to study the situation.” He also recommended investing in the most advanced technology to last for the coming years.   

“We need to assess where we want to go with this,” he said. “There has to be a timeframe and a target.” 


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