Home > Protecting Your Home > Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 10 May 2016 | 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I think the police are in breach of the Pace act the must have authorisation from very high up and have reasonable ground to do what you say they are doing covert operation using hidden cameras
bluerobin - 10-May-16 @ 10:20 AM
I live in on a mobile home park whichis private land and we pay ground rent for the plot our homes are on had my car vandalised because the park ownerremoved some of the perimiter wall so I intallaled CCTV to cover my driveway and the hole in the wall as I have had permission from my neighbour opposite one camera also cover his back door the road between us he(the park owner) is arguing is his land and I canot have my camera on this am I allowed to have my camera on this piece of ground.another covers the hole in the wall again he is saying it is his land is it ok in law to film them especially the hole in he wall which captures any would be wrongdoer coming onto the park
bluerobin - 9-May-16 @ 5:30 PM
I've found two fiber optic cables hidden in my flat. The police have me under serveylance because they think I'm involved in drug supply ( I'm not .but know some old friends who probably are ) . what are my rights. Can I force the hand of the police. Or who ever placed the optical cables. One was burried in my sitting room wall. The other in the kitchen. The flat below me is legally ocupied by a policewoman. I E. She actually lives there..I think ! Though I have seen a maniquin positioned near the window to look like she was in while a man was in the flat...this has been happening for about 9 months. Possibly longer... I was involved with crime. But not for 13 years now. I'm 57 and to old now... Seems like the police don't believe people stop committing crime...
lambretta rider - 9-Apr-16 @ 10:07 PM
hi there i live in a small estate of 9 council bungarlows my next door nabour has got three small cameras in there front living room window one facing the road and the other is facing the property next door. the other is in the front bedroom window facing on to my propertyso when i come out of my front 1.5 meters i am on camera. is this an offence
cab - 5-Apr-16 @ 6:47 PM
How far can a neighbour have a visual view from a security camera
tomo - 2-Apr-16 @ 1:14 PM
Hi, I live in a small complex of 6 bungalows (privately owned and rented by one person). Today, I have noticed 3 CCTV cameras have been installed on top of a pole in my front garden (as well as other poles at other places), and one of the cameras is pointing down to my home. There is not one sign on the whole complex warning of the CCTV, nor did I see the cameras being installed. Where do I stand legally on this? Thank you
thesailorgirl - 27-Mar-16 @ 5:31 PM
I have been living in the house I now own for 32 years and throughout that time we have had very little trouble and brought up three lovely children who are now all adults, My daughter now lives in the same close with her husband and our two grand children, there are 10 houses in the close, now recently we have had a new neighbour moved in the police have been to the house at least 20 times in the past 6 weeks, our neighbour a taxi driver said that the family where made to move from their last house in the town due to the trouble their sons had caused, police where called last night due to the children "both early teens" had smashed the windows on a house in the adjacent close, my question is I have purchased a security system and want to know if there are any guide lines I can follow, I have purchased security cameras in operation stickers to display on windows and doors, am I limited to the bounderie of my property or can I record the full close, I want to record the top of the close where my sons car is parked and across the close to my daughters house.
spud - 20-Mar-16 @ 7:24 PM
Hi, I set up a cctv camera hidden in an alarm clock in my bedroom as my wife was beating me and i wanted evidence of this! I called the police had her arrested got the footage but it had not recorded to the sd carD I then told her im going to court for divorce etc, she then rang the police and had me arrested for 'voyersm' the camera was soley set up to capture her attackin me and as the camera did not work recording - it was only viewable live if that makes sense which i did not know as it was broken? What is the law on this as i am now on bail for 'voyersm' i explained what the camera was for but they took all my phones computer etc Cheers
Axel132 - 19-Mar-16 @ 4:11 PM
dave - Your Question:
I live in an independent living scheme we have had various item being stolen especially in the communal kitchen but are told we can't put a camera up as its against data protection is this true

Our Response:
It could be an invasion of privacy. However, if all the residents and assistants agree to the installation it may be possible to go ahead.
ProtectingYourself - 16-Mar-16 @ 10:14 AM
i live in an independent living scheme we have had various item being stolen especially in the communal kitchen but are told we can't put a camera up as its against data protection is this true
dave - 15-Mar-16 @ 8:21 AM
I am renting a house and recently I rented a room to someone and notice that my room was being broken into, so I put a camera under my door.What I want to know is wrong to protect myself and property from other that live in the house.
misstarr09 - 12-Mar-16 @ 6:30 PM
Hello, I'm currently living in a flat which I rent from a private landlord through an Agency. From one of my living room windows I can see the the parking space where my car and one other tenant's car are parked at night. As I often travel abroad and the parking space is not gated I've installed a camera which streams to my phone and records on a SD card my car and the surroundings for the only for security purposes. The camera records from behind the glass of my window. The agency has nothing in contrary but they want me to ask all other tenants to sign a privacy agreement. Provided that a sign is installed in the car park informing that I'm recording for security purposes, do I really need the other tenants authorisation to keep recording or this can be intended as mere act of courtesy?
Hsdb - 8-Mar-16 @ 1:43 PM
Ksmith - Your Question:
My neighbour has set up cameras around their property, everytime I access my property I will be on camera as I walk past the camera to access property, is this allowed if I don't want me or my children recorded?

Our Response:
If you're worried about your privacy you can contact your local Police or PCSO to take a look at it to check where the cameras are focused.
ProtectingYourself - 26-Feb-16 @ 2:15 PM
My neighbour has set up cameras around their property, everytime I access my property I will be on camera as I walk past the camera to access property, is this allowed if I don't want me or my children recorded?
Ksmith - 25-Feb-16 @ 11:08 AM
ted - Your Question:
The head master at my sons school has shown my child and three other kids recorded CCTV footage of my son being hurt by the one of the boys and asked them to explain the footage. He showed the 9 year old in the staff room. Lot of members of staff present. He freeze framed and fast fwd the footage for comedy effect. My son was very upset at seeing himself hurt. He did not ask our permission. Is this in line with the law of data protection.

Our Response:
Was he using it to identify bullying? Ask to see the school's policy on this - all schools installing CCTV must notify the Information Commissioner that they are installing CCTV and also to state clearly and precisely the purposes for which it is being employed, including the dissemination and distribution of all data collected.
ProtectingYourself - 24-Feb-16 @ 12:56 PM
I have just bought CCTV Am I breaking the law if some of my CCTV footage covers my neighbours boundary But I do have their permission andthey have a sign in the window you are on CCTV
Baz - 24-Feb-16 @ 7:51 AM
The head master at my sons school has shown my child and three otherkids recorded CCTV footage of my son being hurt by the one of the boys and asked them to explain the footage. He showed the 9 year old in the staff room . Lot of members of staff present. He freeze framed and fast fwd the footage for comedy effect. My son was very upset at seeing himself hurt. He did not ask our permission . Is this in line with the law of data protection.
ted - 23-Feb-16 @ 3:05 PM
Jules - Your Question:
I am my Mums registered carer, she has Dementia. My sister wants to install camera's in my mums house to check when we are not there if shes ok. She wants to install one in the bathroom, Is this legal ? I am always with her when she has a shower anyway.

Our Response:
You need to discuss this as a family - as it's a private home and you, as the family are the installers of the device there may not be privacy/human rights issues You should notify any visitors wishing to use the bathroom.
ProtectingYourself - 23-Feb-16 @ 11:41 AM
I am my Mums registered carer, she has Dementia.My sister wants to install camera's in my mums house to check when we are not thereif shes ok. She wants to install one in the bathroom,Is this legal?I am always with her when she has a shower anyway.
Jules - 22-Feb-16 @ 10:57 AM
3 yes ago I lost all my work data.A backup was done on my one staff members pc and my home pc.A bridge was created between my home and work lines.Everytime i tried to source how i lost my files, my hard drive jst wiped clean.I recently went away for a few days and when i returned it looked as if my home was touched up.But no one was home?It has come out that audio and cams were actually put in whilst we were away.In the bathrooms aswell.The actuall persons who put it all in, charged me a whole lot of money for this info.They said it was organised and put in illegally and lots of trouble is on the way to these individuals.Then silence.No more help.They just gone quiet.They told me they were wiping my hard drives as I was close to the trueth.To much evidence on them.As it was done without my consent.There is footage of my kids aswell in the bathroom and apparently not kept to the professional level they supposed to behave.They help themselves to what ever they want and just delete the footage.They can do just what ever they want.Id be surprised if this even made it online.What do i do now?
Qweenie - 22-Feb-16 @ 10:55 AM
Hi my sister keeps being abused by her neighbour's is it against the law to wear a body camera has all the police keep saying is you need evidence thanks
tine - 20-Feb-16 @ 5:44 PM
we have cctv cameras outside our cars across the street and at 2 entrances outside.we have tenants in our house and have a cctv in our cellar because of theft.There are 2 parts of our cellar one ours one theres.we odo not have a camera on there side.we have signs clearly saying there is video surveillance.Have we done every thing right?
cha - 17-Feb-16 @ 4:21 PM
Gata - Your Question:
In housing apartments in a floor of only 12 doors can they put up 6 camaras 1 above my door is that a little to much cause I'm feeling my privacy is being violated especially when one is under my door

Our Response:
Does this just record you going in and out of a communal area or is it actually in your apartment?
ProtectingYourself - 11-Feb-16 @ 12:56 PM
Wolfie - Your Question:
Hey, I am renting a room in a house. And from across the street there are cameras one facing my front door. And I think it's my landlord's. There are no signs and I don't know if you can see the public. Is this legal or my landlord to do?

Our Response:
It may be that the camera is focused on a different property. If you're worried about your privacy you can contact your local Police or PCSO to take a look at it.
ProtectingYourself - 11-Feb-16 @ 9:46 AM
In housing apartments in a floor of only 12 doors can they put up 6 camaras 1 above my door is that a little to much cause I'm feeling my privacy is being violated especially when one is under my door
Gata - 10-Feb-16 @ 6:44 AM
Hey, I am renting a room in a house. And from across the street there are cameras one facing my front door. And I think it's my landlord's. There are no signs and I don't know if you can see the public. Is this legal or my landlord to do?
Wolfie - 9-Feb-16 @ 1:46 AM
Fed Up - Your Question:
Hi,We have issues with fly tippers and want to put signs up to say CCTV in operation - but we won't actually be recording - I've been advised it's against the law to do so - Is this correct?

Our Response:
If it's on your own property, you can erect whatever signs you wish to. You cannot however, erect signs on land/property that does not belong to you.
ProtectingYourself - 5-Feb-16 @ 11:09 AM
Hi, We have issues with fly tippers and want to put signs up to say CCTV in operation - but we won't actually be recording - I've been advised it's against the law to do so - Is this correct?
Fed Up - 3-Feb-16 @ 10:19 PM
Mike - Your Question:
Aye I was wondering is it mandatory to have a sign up if I set up a camera for my house jus in the garage and outside of the parameter jus to keep my family safe.

Our Response:
As long as the cameras are not pointed at any areas where the general public/passers by will be caught on camera.
ProtectingYourself - 1-Feb-16 @ 2:26 PM
Drea - Your Question:
I've put up cameras around my house as I have dogs that roam and 2 tenants that live in the back of my house. All of a sudden they are yelling at me that I'm invading their privacy. The cameras are not pointed directly at their places instead an overall view of the backyard. Am I doing the camera thing legal? Or am I stepping in on their privacy?

Our Response:
If the cameras are only focused onto your own property, which is not a public or communal area then you are within your rights to have it there.
ProtectingYourself - 1-Feb-16 @ 2:08 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ProtectingYourself website. Please read our Disclaimer.