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Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 19 May 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
We recently moved ground floor house and before when we seen this home there is no camera front and back side and after we came we saw cameras which upstairs tenant he fixed on front door and back side of my gardens. He keep on eyes on us all the time and I told him to remove camera he was laughing on my face. I told to landlord and he said to me for safety but we live in as a 2 different families. Landlord doesn’t live in here. How can he fix camera without tenant permission to watching what we doing all the time . I don’t want this camera and I don’t how to take action against him. Please suggest me
Hetal - 26-Apr-18 @ 9:34 AM
Does using a web cam from an indoor bracket still come under these laws? Does the notice (if needed) have to be on the ground floor?
gentoo - 24-Apr-18 @ 8:47 AM
DeeBee - Your Question:
I own some land which the public have always had access to and is well used by the community in the summer. Recently we’ve had some fly tipping and I have thought about putting up trail cameras where the tipping occurs. Can I do this or do I need to put a notice up to say there are cameras in the area? Thanks

Our Response:
It might be worth consulting your local council or community policing body this. Are there any signs up informing people that the land is private and to use it respectfully etc? If so, then in time it might be acceptable to install CCTV, but you would probably have to erect signs informing users of its presence.
ProtectingYourself - 23-Apr-18 @ 10:24 AM
I own some land which the public have always had access to and is well used by the community in the summer. Recently we’ve had some fly tipping and I have thought about putting up trail cameras where the tipping occurs. Can I do this or do I need to put a notice up to say there are cameras in the area? Thanks
DeeBee - 22-Apr-18 @ 9:27 AM
Can i do CCTV monitoringin the kithen without recording in shared house? I had before for long time and people who lived in house,They knew and everthing was good. But now new neighbours complaining to landlord(which is not house owner) that i do CCTV monitoring.Should I take off camera???
Alex - 1-Apr-18 @ 9:00 PM
Alibongo - Your Question:
Can someone with cctv on their front post pictures of you on social media

Our Response:
No, access to CCTV footage should only be given to those who need it (such as the police).
ProtectingYourself - 27-Mar-18 @ 11:33 AM
Can someone with cctv on their front post pictures of you on social media
Alibongo - 24-Mar-18 @ 9:43 AM
Hi, My dad has put up a CCTV camera and only switches it on when I'm in the house alone and leaves it off when my mum and brother are at home. Is he allowed to do this as it's targeting just me and isn't using it for a general security purpose. It's based in the kitchen and can see and hear everything I ( only me ) does. I woke just like some advice if he can do this as it is his house because I feel he can't by reading some of this web page. If not how do I go about legally getting it removed ? Thanks Nathan
Nath - 17-Mar-18 @ 3:29 PM
I park my car on the road not far from my front window, I have recently had my car damaged, I strongly feel it could be a neighbour but have no evidence of this . Iv been thinking of putting cctv in the window of my living room that will record my car , am I allowed to do this ??
Louise - 21-Feb-18 @ 11:34 PM
What was the answer to ellie-jo please
Louise - 21-Feb-18 @ 11:26 PM
Concerned- Your Question:
I am staying at a hostel and they have a surveillance camera in the dormitory. And I think that this is illegal.

Our Response:
Yes if it's in one of the occupied dormitories you should question management about this.
ProtectingYourself - 19-Feb-18 @ 1:58 PM
I am staying at a hostel and they have a surveillance camera in the dormitory. And I think that this is illegal.
Concerned - 18-Feb-18 @ 9:37 PM
My neibour covers my cctv to enter my garden Can he beprosecuted
Carole - 17-Feb-18 @ 8:22 PM
Baba- Your Question:
Can a council tenant have a CCTV camera installed to watch innocent people minding their own business without stating they are recording ? Surely that's an infringement of people's rights & privacy

Our Response:
You haven't said where the cameras are sited?
ProtectingYourself - 12-Feb-18 @ 11:52 AM
Can a council tenant have a CCTVcamera installed to watch innocent people minding their own business without stating they are recording ? Surely that's an infringement of people's rights & privacy
Baba - 9-Feb-18 @ 7:42 PM
Does a company have to install signs saying a camera is installed if they are trying to catch someone stealing ?
Hicks68 - 24-Jan-18 @ 4:30 PM
Suvasley - Your Question:
If I catch a car thief on my drive way using my CCTV can I then post it on Facebook to find him if the police give up on the case and then use it as evidence in court?

Our Response:
You should forward the CCTV to police and ask them how you can use the footage.
ProtectingYourself - 19-Jan-18 @ 11:40 AM
If i catch a car thief on my drive way using my CCTV can i then post it on Facebook to find him if the police give up on the case and then use it as evidence in court?
Suvasley - 16-Jan-18 @ 3:56 PM
hi all, i have concerns about my neighbour having too many cameras outside his terraced property, theres 1 camera that is facing my boundary infront of house , been told can see my front wall but not my door ,2 further cameras are facing private garages opposite where he parks , Could someone tell me if his allowed to have so many , as im sure my human rights and other neighbours rights are being breached
dee - 4-Jan-18 @ 2:45 PM
I am my 102 year old granny's main informal carer. I have active power of attorney for finance and when the time comes welfare. With her agreement I installed a camera in her bedroom after checking with the local authority who provide four care visits per day. She owns the property. The camera is pointing in her room only.I am happy carers cover the camera when they visit. I can still hear. Until lately I paid almost no attention to carers but it allows me to see what granny is doing when they are not there. She is on her own for over 12 hours sometimes so this is vital. Granny is in the bedroom almost all day and night. Lately I have however had a need to report concerns and this has escalated to her case being reviewed by Adult Support and Protection. The service provider is now wanting the camera switched off when carers are in the house due to Data Protection. Can they do this legally?
Ellie-Jo - 20-Dec-17 @ 4:51 PM
Can a son put camera in father house without permition as it interfere father privecy which indian law is applied against son
Sufiya - 14-Dec-17 @ 3:06 PM
Hi, i suffer from domestic abuse on a regular occurrence so wanted to installtiny camera's to log the abuse. Police said this will be a violation as its a rented property and need to ask owner? Owner is friends with husband and my husband being a policeman, not sure if they are deliberately fobbing me off? Thanks
Numbugg - 12-Dec-17 @ 9:21 AM
Ray - Your Question:
My house has no front garden, it's straight out onto public pavement, ive had someone kick my new front door and cause unrepairable damage. How can I put a camera up to watch front of house without breaking law on filming footpaths

Our Response:
If you're filming the public passing on the pavement outside your door, there may be privacy issues. It might better to speak to your local council and see if there are any plans to put CCTV & notices in the area. If there aren't any plans, ask what they can do and whether you can erect your own CCTV with a notice to the public etc
ProtectingYourself - 6-Dec-17 @ 12:00 PM
My house has no front garden, it's straight out onto public pavement, ive had someone kick my new front door and cause unrepairable damage. How can i put a camera up to watch front of house without breaking law on filming footpaths
Ray - 5-Dec-17 @ 2:20 PM
I was given permission to access cctv from my manager a few years ago. The owner also knew I had access. I was then recently being harassed by another member of staff. This can be seen on cctv showing myself and her. I took a recording of this incident. Is this allowed?
Katie - 1-Dec-17 @ 3:26 AM
Ben - Your Question:
I have had a customer steal from me, so I reviewed the cctv and took a picture of the person from the cctv and showed to their employer as they were known to me to identify the person. Is that ok to do?

Our Response:
No, you should have contacted the police about this.
ProtectingYourself - 29-Nov-17 @ 11:04 AM
I have had a customer steal from me, so I reviewed the cctv and took a picture of the person from the cctv and showed to their employer as they were known to me to identify the person. Is that ok to do?
Ben - 28-Nov-17 @ 2:43 PM
BP2912 - Your Question:
We have rented a property for a few nights and have found WiFi covert camera's installed. Is this permissible? Surely they should declare this?

Our Response:
No, CCTV should not be used in situations where people can expect privacy. You can complain/request more information about this from the Information commissioner
ProtectingYourself - 27-Nov-17 @ 11:58 AM
We have rented a property for a few nights and have found WiFi covert camera's installed. Is this permissible? Surely they should declare this?
BP2912 - 23-Nov-17 @ 8:30 AM
I am a carer, live in care, in the placement the family want to install a webcam to look if there mum are eating. How i am sure about my privacy and the video is not going on third part? Do they must to ask my agree?
Michelle - 17-Nov-17 @ 10:31 AM
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