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Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 23 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Security Cameras law crime criminal

Security cameras are a popular tool in the battle against crime. Businesses, government departments and local authorities have been using these cameras for years – but they are now becoming increasingly popular with householders. One large supplier of security cameras and related equipment says that sales of these products have increased by 265% in the last five years. Cameras can serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they have a deterrent effect, as wrong-doers are likely to avoid areas where they may be caught on camera. Secondly, film footage of a crime being committed can help to ensure that the criminal is convicted – as has happened in several recent high-profile cases.

Home Security Surveillance

Most security cameras used in the home will be CCTV – or closed circuit television cameras. This means that the images captured are only broadcast within the security system itself and cannot be received by other transmitters and receivers. Modern CCTV cameras can be very compact and accurate, providing low key, comprehensive coverage and images which can clearly identify those being filmed. Most security cameras will have a facility to record the images they transmit. There are various different recording options available: video, DVD and storage straight to a personal computer.

Security Cameras and the Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) imposes strict rules on the use of security cameras themselves and the use of images of private individuals innocently going about their business. Section 36 of the DPA states that personal data – including video footage of an individual – captured only for limited domestic purposes is not covered by the restrictions of the DPA.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent authority which reports directly to the UK parliament. It works to promote the protection of private information and access to public information. The Information Commissioner’s Office Code of Practice on the use of CCTV states that the use of security cameras for “limited household purposes”, including protecting an individual’s home from burglary, is NOT covered by the DPA - even if the camera captures images of streets or other areas near the home.

However, there is a widespread belief that the use of cameras is covered by the DPA if they capture images of people on property not belonging to the camera’s owner. Householders should bear in mind the use of the words “limited household purposes” – it is possible that some uses of CCTV may take them outside of this definition and bring them under the control of the DPA. For example, it may be that using a camera to snoop on a neighbour would not be exempt from the DPA restrictions.

Restrictions Imposed by the DPA

Where the use of cameras is covered by the DPA there are several requirements which have to be satisfied – these include:
  • Putting up clear signs to say that CCTV is in operation;
  • Only using the footage for the purpose for which it has been taken;
  • Only keeping footage for as long as it is needed;
  • Not releasing footage to third parties;
  • Keeping the footage safe.
If a camera has been set up to prevent crime the footage can be kept for as long as it is needed to detect and prosecute a crime, and can be passed to the police and other relevant authorities for this purpose.

The Human Rights Act

Under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1988 an individual has the right to respect for his private and family life, and of his home. It could well be that training a security camera on a neighbour’s front door would amount to a breach of this fundamental human right.

Cameras and Evidence

It is vital that cameras are installed in a way and place that complies with any legal restrictions. If they are not, any footage of a crime may not be usable as evidence at a subsequent trial. Criminal trials are subject to very rigorous rules on what is and is not allowed to be used as evidence against the accused. If evidence has been obtained in a way that is not legal it will almost certainly be disallowed by the judge presiding over the case.

The police advise all users of CCTV to take great care that they comply with any legal restrictions to prevent potentially vital evidence being rendered worthless. Due to the potential consequences, householders may be wise to err on the side of caution when operating CCTV from their home.

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I live in a block of flats with CCTV in the main entrance lobby. The building management are claiming that children coming to my flat to play with my daughter are in fact paying customers to a childminding business. Which isn't the case. One particular member of the management seems to have a problem with us (my partner is Polish and I think that may have a bearing) He has been questioning my visitors as to their reasons for being there and calling them liars when the say they are friends. There are also rumours that he has moved to monitoring of the CCTV from the management office to his own person residence. Is he allowed to do that? And what can I do to stop the harassment? Thanks in advance.
SiMan - 23-Feb-17 @ 5:41 PM
Dee - Your Question:
I live in a tenement house, I've recently had issues with a neighbour she has been accusin me of banging on her door. I woke up yesterday to police officers in the hallway and some men installing cctv right outside my flat. They told me that the camera wasn't looking directly at my door but was looking down in the direction or the bottom of my stairs and the front or her door. Called the housing association and was told it's for sercurity, there are 6 flats in the building nobody was informed no notice have gone up. Also the system was installed through her flat with the monitor screen in her flat. The guys installing it said that it's passworded and they can't see the images. I want to know is it legal what they have done and can they use the footage for anything other than the so called banging in her door?

Our Response:
Yes if it's a communal area, a landlord can install CCTV. You should report the banging accusations to your landlord.
ProtectingYourself - 20-Feb-17 @ 12:48 PM
I live in a tenement house, I've recently had issues with a neighbour she has been accusin me of banging on her door. I woke up yesterday to police officers in the hallway and some men installing cctv right outside my flat. They told me that the camera wasn't looking directly at my door but was looking down in the direction or the bottom of my stairs and the front or her door. Called the housing association and was told it's for sercurity, there are 6 flats in the building nobody was informed no notice have gone up. Also the system was installed through her flat with the monitor screen in her flat. The guys installing it said that it's passworded and they can't see the images. I want to know is it legal what they have done and can they use the footage for anything other than the so called banging in her door?
Dee - 18-Feb-17 @ 9:40 AM
I live in a penthouse on the top floor (5th). The lift give access directly to my front door. Noone else but me lives on the 5th floor.There is no other flat. I have affixed a cctv above my front door to monitor traffic especially that I am abroad on a regular basis and live alone (female). I own a share in the freehold (10 flats). The Landlord wants to force me to remove my cctv even if it is not infringing on anyone privacy. The cctv give me comfort about my security. The Landlord are locked in a vicious battle against me because i am challenging the service charge. A way to get back at me is to harass me about my cctv. They are arguing the wall above my flat is not demise property; therefore should not have cctv without their consent (which they do not want to provide) Do they have a leg to stand on? Thank you
Lesley - 9-Feb-17 @ 6:15 AM
The people Across the road, a busy road at that,from ore house installed cctv 3 year ago and pointed one camera away from there house to where they park there van. We live on a corner across the road from them and I tackled him and he swore at me. I contacted the police at the time and his camera was filming our garden. He had to alter the line of sight but it still points accross the road and, as far as I know still at the corner of our property plus down the side. We have a few schools near our property and his camera will certainly be filming children etc coming home from school. Who can I report this mattter to and take thing further as the police hadn't got a clue what to do regarding cctv
Discodobbo - 31-Jan-17 @ 11:48 PM
We have use of a right of carrigeway which is owned by our neibours, they have just put up a security camera point down the carriageway is the leagal as we are being filmed all the time, driving, walking etc
Jo - 27-Jan-17 @ 6:57 AM
Hi I have put a camera up in my communal doorway but it's facing my door it is not facing my neighbours property since putting it up they have took my camera would this be classed as a theft
White - 22-Jan-17 @ 2:36 PM
I have cctv on my wall outside my front door. I made sure I didn't get my neighbors door in the view but it shows the stairs slightly. They have complained but I don't have their door in view am I ok . And then I have a camera out side my window showing the main door. As it s 1 way in an out I live top floor in a block off 6 flat s. I've had my car burned out etc... my neighbor complained about that as well . I might have to move it or am I ok ??? If I put the camera inside my flat looking out to the car park am I ok as it's inside my flat
Lord - 18-Jan-17 @ 8:54 PM
Brackers - Your Question:
Hi, we have a public access alley at the back of our property and unfortunately there are several dog owners who let there dogs mess outside the gate and don't clear it up. Not only is this annoying to us but it's also the route used by young children getting to the local school. I want to put a camera up so I can catch these irresponsible dog owners and pass the evidence to the local environmental dept. Can I put up a camera??? Many thanks.

Our Response:
No you can't put up CCTV but speak to your council about the persistent offenders and the fact that it's route used by young school children.
ProtectingYourself - 11-Jan-17 @ 12:21 PM
Hi my girlfriends car keeps getting vandalised. She has to park on the road as no parking is allocated. Some time she can't park out side her house if I were to put cameras up pointing down the road would this be allowed as police need evidence to who we suspect it is
Adaml - 10-Jan-17 @ 8:54 PM
Hi, we have a public access alley at the back of our property and unfortunately there are several dog owners who let there dogs mess outside the gate and don't clear it up. Not only is this annoying to us but it's also the route used by young children getting to the local school. I want to put a camera up so I can catch these irresponsible dog owners and pass the evidence to the local environmental dept. Can I put up a camera??? Many thanks.
Brackers - 10-Jan-17 @ 5:12 PM
GMAN - Your Question:
My car is parked halfway across my dropped curb, halfway on the pavement. Every morning I come out and someone has spat all over my window (roadside). If I install a camera it with have view of my two neighbour's drive and front doors. If I ask for permission to install the cameras am I still legally aloud to record the road and pavement outside my house with the main focus being on my car?

Our Response:
No, if you're recording the public area (the pavement) you are potentially in breach of privacy laws.
ProtectingYourself - 6-Jan-17 @ 2:06 PM
My car is parked halfway across my dropped curb, halfway on the pavement. Every morning I come out and someone has spat all over my window (roadside). If I install a camera it with have view of my two neighbour's drive and front doors. If I ask for permission to install the cameras am I still legally aloud to record the road and pavement outside my house with the main focus being on my car?
GMAN - 5-Jan-17 @ 5:05 PM
Thomas- Your Question:
I stayed in a hotel recently andwas videoed by a mobile phone which took photos too. I was unaware of this happening and also pictures were taking of me in the toilet where do I stand as I am concerned as to these being posted on Internet or elsewhere

Our Response:
Report this to the police.
ProtectingYourself - 5-Jan-17 @ 1:51 PM
I stayed in a hotel recently andwas videoedby a mobile phone which took photos too. I was unaware of this happening and also pictures were taking of me in the toilet where do I stand as I am concerned as to these being posted on Internet or elsewhere
Thomas - 4-Jan-17 @ 9:19 PM
Hi I keep getting things thrown at my window every night and I want to get CCTV,can I get it as I'm in the ground floor flat which my window looks on to the path
Rebecca - 30-Dec-16 @ 5:34 PM
JC27 - Your Question:
Hi several houses in my street have had property vandalised and nails wedged under car wheels to deliberately cause punctures. I would like to fit a security camera pointing the length of my driveway but have a public footpath at the end of it. Would I be allowed to fit a camera if I can restrict it from recording the footpath?

Our Response:
Yes if it's just focused on your own driveway, there should be no issue with it.
ProtectingYourself - 6-Dec-16 @ 12:55 PM
Rach - Your Question:
My neighbour has hidden cameras on his flower hanging baskets at the front of the house 1 pointing into my yard and the other into the opposite neighbours garden. Wer do we stand legally in regards to him recording our properties and us without any notice or warning signs. I know he has the right to record him property for his own security purposes.

Our Response:
If you suspect he is recording anywhere/people other than on his property, call your local police (non emergency) or speak to your local police community support officer. They can take a look and ask him to move them if they feel it's an infringement of anyone's privacy.
ProtectingYourself - 6-Dec-16 @ 10:53 AM
Hi several houses in my street have had property vandalised and nails wedged under car wheels to deliberately cause punctures. I would like to fit a security camera pointing the length of my driveway but have a public footpath at the end of it. Would I be allowed to fit a camera if I can restrict it from recording the footpath?
JC27 - 5-Dec-16 @ 9:31 AM
My neighbour has hidden cameras on his flower hanging baskets at the front of the house 1 pointing into my yard and the other into the opposite neighbours garden. Wer do we stand legally in regards to him recording our properties and us without any notice or warning signs. I know he has the right to record him property for his own security purposes.
Rach - 3-Dec-16 @ 10:03 AM
Nassy - Your Question:
Ia it legal for a landlord to put cameras by enterance,in the hallway and upstairs?

Our Response:
If these are communal areas, yes a landlord can install CCTV but must inform users of those areas that it is in operation.
ProtectingYourself - 9-Nov-16 @ 9:58 AM
Ia it legal for a landlord to put cameras by enterance,in the hallway and upstairs?
Nassy - 8-Nov-16 @ 1:48 AM
DON'T LET DOMESTIC CCTV CAMERAS PRY ON YOU IN PUBLIC OR IN YOUR PRIVATE SPACES If anyone is concerned about the use of domestic CCTV cameras that are capturing your or your private property or even any inch of public property please do the following: 1) Got to the ICO website (google ICO) 2) Find the CONTACT US link at the bottom 3) Find email address that ends with @casework.ico.org 4) email that address with the details of how and where the domestic CCTV camera is breaching public or private areas It is their duty to assess and make sure all domestic CCTV cameras are following the new regulations. Good Luck! Legal Ed
Legal Ed - 19-Oct-16 @ 6:18 PM
Hi, I live in a house with a & b, upstairs and downstairs, I want to install cctv pointed at the main door before you enter into the communal hallway. Had a burglary recently and want to be more secured! Will that he allowed? It will record any 1 knocking at the door or entering and leaving
Bob smith - 18-Oct-16 @ 8:19 AM
Hi, I moved into my houselast year , had no problems until November 5th. When a group of lads school age I think start jumping into my fence from the passage way that is at the back and side of the house, breaking it, I was in my garage at the time so I ran after them. Called police but without CCTV pictures nothing could done. Since then I had kids damaging the fence more. But no CCTV no action tried the local school ,no again ,CCTV to prove who it was. No issues over the summer holidays but yes today the house next door had been broken into. They must had waited until most people where out to do it. So can I have CCTV that covers the entrance to the alley way and back section on the back of the garage. I need to protect my 3 year old and 5 five week age. Thank you
Qwerty1 - 16-Sep-16 @ 2:38 AM
Hey, Basically me and my older sister share a room facing the street...its not too bad but for about a year now my dad had took it upon himself to place a camera on the inside of my room looking out at the street. Im not sure if the camera has audio, i believe it can see into peoples windows which is or could be against the law. I hate it being in my room and feel as if its vialating my human rights as every time i attempt to remove it my dad puts it back and tells me off. He has no reason for it to be there or to spy on people like this. Any suggestions on what i can use against him to get it out of my room and into the front room?
Rose - 13-Aug-16 @ 7:21 PM
Fathead- Your Question:
I work in the care profession with teenagers, we have some two bedroom flats that we use as stand alone units. Are we allowed to install CCTV cameras

Our Response:
Where do you want to install the cameras? You can probably only install them in communal areas and may have to inform residents and visitors, together with a notice - check with your company's solicitor if you are unsure.
ProtectingYourself - 10-Aug-16 @ 10:16 AM
I work in the care profession with teenagers, we have some two bedroom flats that we use as stand alone units. Are we allowed to install CCTV cameras
Fathead - 8-Aug-16 @ 4:15 PM
I've been advised to install CCTV on my home as i am having stones repeatedly thrown at my windows etc by a local youth. Am I legally bound to display signs that denote CCTV is at work? As my fear is likely to escalate the behaviour or start attacking my car that has to be parked away from my house
Anon - 27-Jul-16 @ 8:56 AM
Hi, I work in a place where there are strict data security rules. There are areas which are restricted and cameras are not allowed at all. Even visitors have to leave their phones in a locker in order to enter the premises. My problem is this. I have been and I am being harassed by my boss and a few colleagues and this is really getting out of hand. I won't go in to detail about the harassment since this is not the forum to discuss such. For me to prove any of this, needless to say I need evidence. If I do wear a spy camera to record some of the abuse I receive, would it be admissible in court - bearing in mind that cameras are not allowed in certain areas of the business? Of course you may ask why I cannot simply record voice covertly - the thing is the type of mental abuse I receive is not just verbal. These are never done directly and I can only prove this with video footage. This has been going on for over two years now and I need to stop it as my name is being tarnished. Please help.
Theabused - 21-Jul-16 @ 8:12 PM
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