A CCTV system is one of the best ways to boost security and deter criminals from targeting a particular home or place of business. The benefits to a home or business owner are obvious, in that the cameras can act as a deterrent or will record images and even the audio of any criminal activity. This helps the police identify the culprits and bring them to justice, while the existence of CCTV footage can also help speed through any related insurance claims.
There is some legislation covering the installation of such equipment though, so it is important to understand where you stand with the law before choosing to install a CCTV system.
Personal Data and the Data Protections Act
The first thing to understand is that the main purpose of CCTV – to record images and sounds, particularly of people committing criminal acts – automatically makes the use of such cameras a personal data issue. This is because the law views the recognisable image of a person’s face as that person’s personal data.
This legal protection of a person’s personal data is also true of anyone who may be incidentally recorded by the CCTV system. This includes employees of a business or members of a domestic household, neighbours or other members of the general public. All controllers of CCTV system must therefore be able to justify the collection or use of such personal data.
This is especially pertinent considering all the different CCTV cameras available today, as not all of them are designed to be clearly visible deterrents.
Justifiable Reasons for Installing CCTV
Installing a CCTV system to record a business’ premises for security purposes is usually easy to justify, especially if the business is empty of people at night or has other areas which are vulnerable to criminal invasions such as burglary or vandalism.
Be aware though that any recording, by a private person or organisation, of a public space via CCTV is considered a violation of the Data Protection Act, although there are exceptions. It also still counts as a violation if the cameras only partially record a public space. For example, a person who fears their property or themselves can be seen through a neighbour’s domestic CCTV system has the right to make a civil legal action to ensure the system does not record any of their personal data.
Additional Purposes of CCTV Systems
Security of a property either domestic or commercial is the primary reason for installing CCTV, but other reasons can include health and safety concerns. In such instances, the CCTV controller would have to demonstrate that the camera system is a proportionate measure in monitoring a previous health and safety issue.
Monitoring the comings and goings of employees in a workplace can also be justifiable in certain cases, but as with every other potential usage of CCTV, the use and purpose of the cameras must be clearly signalled to all who may be recorded. A sign declaring the presence and purpose of the CCTV by every entrance is usually enough to satisfy this legal requirement.