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Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Aug 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.

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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
What about domestic abuse cases? Repeated coercive controlling behaviour often happens behind closed doors. Can evidence from Body Worn Cameras be admissible in criminal court?
DVA - 4-Jul-16 @ 5:34 PM
Sue - Your Question:
Can I use a personal body camera at work to protect myself against scammers as this has happened to me twice now or will I be breaking the law ?

Our Response:
This depends what your job is and whether the people you deal with would be aware that you are wearing the camera.
ProtectingYourself - 30-Jun-16 @ 12:05 PM
Can I use a personal body camera at work to protect myself against scammers as this has happened to me twice now or will I be breaking the law ?
Sue - 29-Jun-16 @ 12:28 AM
Von- Your Question:
HI im asking how we can find out were the cameras are located , my friends next door neighbor has cameras in his house and we are 100% sure hes got small cameras going through into my sisters bedroom and living room , as she heard them talking outside about all the things they had done in the bedroom , the only way they can see is by a camera and everything she had been talking about they was also repeated outside in their garden and they was laughing, His job is installing cameras and hes been bragging to a neighbor he can see everything in my sisters house , the neighbor told her bur not willing to get involved any more than that, How to we go about finding were the cameras are located and what can we do.. as we need proof please help

Our Response:
How could the neighbour have entered your property to install a camera? Surely you'd be able to see a camera in your own room? Maybe you should hire a security expert to check out your home if you're very concerned.
ProtectingYourself - 15-Jun-16 @ 9:59 AM
I live in a house converted into flats. I have ground floor flat with rear garden the upstairs neighbours have no acces to the garden. They have installed a camera in there window pointing directing into my garden where my son plays. Is this legal
Jones - 14-Jun-16 @ 7:50 PM
HI im asking how we can find out were the cameras are located , my friends next door neighbor has cameras in his house and we are 100% sure hes got small cameras going through into my sisters bedroom and living room , as she heard them talking outside about all the things they had done in the bedroom , the only way they can see is by a camera and everything she had been talking about they was also repeated outside in their garden and they was laughing, His job is installing cameras and hes been bragging to a neighbor he can see everything in my sisters house , the neighbor told her bur not willing to get involved any more than that, How to we go about finding were the cameras are located and what can we do ......... as we need proof please help
Von - 13-Jun-16 @ 11:50 AM
sincerus - Your Question:
I have a work unit on a private business compound. It has 'private property, no trespassing', no turning on the wall BEFORE you enter the compound. A house built on my landlords wall is being really nasty. He is 'effing' and blinding at the unit tenants, he is trying everything to get the businesses closed, as he doesnt like the view from his window. He has had noise nuisance complaints made to the Council investigated and the business concerned was given the all clear from the Council. Because that did not work, he is now taking photographs of the private land from his lounge window to try and stop vehicular movement. When that failed he now has a CCTV pointing out of his lounge window (which is his property boundary) directly into the work compound. Does he have permission to take photos or video footage of us going about our work without our permission, and does he have the right to have a CCTV set out of the window pointing directly into the compound? He has been reported to the Council for shouting abuse at the unit holders, can I get the CCTV equipment removed as it is not within the confines of his property, it is directed within the work compound, of which he has been banned due to harassment.

Our Response:
If you mention this to the police, they will go round and check it. If they consider it's infringing your privacy, he can be made to remove it, as he's already been banned due to harassment, there's a strong possibility they will do so.
ProtectingYourself - 7-Jun-16 @ 11:21 AM
I have a work unit on a private business compound. It has 'private property, no trespassing', no turning on the wall BEFORE you enter the compound. A house built on my landlords wall is being really nasty. He is 'effing' and blinding at the unit tenants, he is trying everything to get the businesses closed, as he doesnt like the view from his window. He has had noise nuisance complaints made to the Council investigated and the business concerned was given the all clear from the Council. Because that did not work, he is now taking photographs of the private land from his lounge window to try and stop vehicular movement. When that failed he now has a CCTV pointing out of his lounge window (which is his property boundary) directly into the work compound. Does he have permission to take photos or video footage of us going about our work without our permission, and does he have the right to have a CCTV set out of the window pointing directly into the compound?He has been reported to the Council for shouting abuse at the unit holders, can I get the CCTV equipment removed as it is not within the confines of his property, it is directed within the work compound, of which he has been banned due to harassment.
sincerus - 5-Jun-16 @ 3:11 PM
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
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