Home Surveillance Cameras (CCTV)
A new ruling means that residents using surveillance cameras on their personal property may be breaking the rules if they are recording footage covering any land outside their own.
Until now, users of home surveillance systems were generally considered exempt from the obligations imposed by the Data Protection Act 1998.
Previous guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stated that, whilst CCTV systems involve the processing of personal data (and therefore require the operator to register with the ICO and follow the data protection principles), home surveillance systems are exempt from these obligations, as they are used ‘in the course of a purely personal or household activity’. However, following a recent ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), this may no longer be the case.
This ruling concerned a home surveillance camera installed by Czech man Frantisek Rynes on his personal property, following a series of attacks against his home. The camera was fixed to record his home but also caught the public footpath and the entrance to the house opposite. Recordings were on a continual loop, so once the hard drive was full, it would automatically record over the old material.
Whilst the camera was successful in identifying the culprits, Mr Rynes was found to have committed a number of offences in relation to the protection of personal data, as it was deemed that video surveillance which even partially covers a public space, cannot be regarded as a purely ‘personal or household’ activity.
Your questions answered with advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
I want to install CCTV at my home, what should I do?
CCTV used on your property will be exempt from the Data Protection Act unless you are capturing footage of individuals outside your property.
However, regardless of whether your CCTV system is exempt, the ICO recommends that you use CCTV in a responsible way to protect the privacy of others.
What if my camera captures footage of individuals beyond the boundaries of my property?
You must consider whether it is necessary for your camera to operate beyond the boundary of your property.
If your camera covers, even partially, any areas beyond the boundaries of your property, such as neighbouring gardens or the street, then it will no longer be exempt from the Data Protection Act (DPA) under the domestic purposes exemption. This does not mean that you are breaching the DPA but it does mean that you are subject to it.
What can I do to make sure that what I’m doing complies with the DPA?
First, think about the problem you are trying to address and the best solution to it. This will usually be to safeguard you and your property against crime. Check your local police advice about crime prevention. Better locks or security lighting may be a more effective and less expensive way of securing your property.
If you decide to use CCTV cameras, you should:
• consider what areas would need to be covered by it, will the camera capture images you actually need and how you will safeguard any recorded images so they can be used by the police to investigate crimes affecting you;
• consider whether you can put up signs clearly explaining that recording is taking place and take steps to do so if it is practical;
• have appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that the equipment is only operated in the ways you intend and can’t be misused. At its simplest, this means that anyone you share your property with, such as family members who could use the equipment, need to know how important it is not to misuse it;
• ensure you have activated settings to enable the security of footage captured by the CCTV system and that any recordings of individuals are held securely. Make sure that you only allow access to people who need it;
• consider speaking to your neighbours and explain what you are doing and any objections or suggestions they have. (It may be useful to invite your neighbours to view the footage that you capture, this may allay any concerns they may have about your use of a CCTV system.); and
• consider purchasing equipment that enables you to control what you can record. This will enable you to keep privacy intrusion to a minimum.
You should remember that your use of a CCTV system may be appropriate but publicly uploading or streaming footage of individuals will require further justification and in most cases will not be justifiable.
As the data controller for this footage, individuals do have the right to request a copy of it from you under the DPA, if you collect their personal data.
What other considerations are there?
If you cannot rely on the domestic purposes exemption you are subject to a number of requirements in the Data Protection Act. This includes a requirement to notify the ICO that you are a data controller. However, the ICO recognises that individuals need time to adjust to these developments in the law.
Many CCTV systems now come with audio recording facilities. Audio recording is particularly privacy intrusive and in the vast majority of cases where CCTV is being used on domestic properties it should be disabled.
Please also contact your Tenancy Services Officer prior to installation to check it is acceptable for you to affix the equipment to an external wall.
To download a printable fact sheet containing this information please click here.
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