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Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 29 Sep 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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[Add a Comment]
tibs - Your Question:
Hi I have CCTV outside my domestic home they have been there for eight years I am registered with the ICO, I now have received a letter and a form informing me I need planning permission for my cameras they want £190 pounds, and plans drawn up of my house. What can I do. I need the cctv because of the crime in my area, the police have been to see and view my cctv and they don't have an issue with them.

Our Response:
If your local council says they need planning permission you will have to apply for it unfortunately.
ProtectingYourself - 2-Oct-17 @ 11:42 AM
hi I have CCTV outside my domestic home they have been there for eight years I am registered with the ICO, I now have received a letter and a form informing me I need planning permission for my cameras they want £190 pounds, and plans drawn up of my house. What can I do. I need the cctv because of the crime in my area, the police have been to see and view my cctv and they don't have an issue with them.
tibs - 29-Sep-17 @ 8:05 AM
Mike - Your Question:
Hi,I'm putting an IP camera up in my shop to keep an eye on what's going on in there, when I'm not around,their will be no recording involved and my staff will have access to the camera on their days off via the password,What does the law say?,Thankyou x

Our Response:
As long as the customers are aware that filming is happening it should be fine. It's worth taking the ICO assessment to see if you need to register
ProtectingYourself - 19-Sep-17 @ 10:52 AM
Hi,I'm putting an IP camera up in my shop to keep an eye on what's going on in there, when I'm not around,their will be no recording involved and my staff will have access to the camera on their days off via the password,What does the law say?,Thankyou x
Mike - 17-Sep-17 @ 9:55 AM
Tiggy - Your Question:
Hi my house has shared pathway to my and my neighbours front doors I recently notice a front door bell on viewing same doorbell found out it has a camera which also has a voice and video with it and a sensor which can be used with a smart phone it has a 180° movement plus a night sensor, I would like to know my rights on it as very concerned it will pick up anyone who calls to my house and they can hear what I say to my callers is this allowed to happen?

Our Response:
They probably didn't do this intentionally and you may have to seek legal advice as to whether it infringes your privacy etc
ProtectingYourself - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:22 AM
Hi my house has shared pathway to my and my neighbours front doors i recently notice a front door bell on viewing same doorbell found out it has a camera which also has a voice and video with it and a sensor which can be used with a smart phone it has a 180° movement plus a night sensor, i would like to know my rights on it as very concerned it will pick up anyone who calls to my house and they can hear what i say to my callers is this allowed to happen?
Tiggy - 12-Sep-17 @ 5:38 PM
Mick - Your Question:
A Haulage Company has erected all round Security cameras in it's yard. One of the cameras is at the bottom of my garden, and it overlooks my garden completely. As I have not been notified or asked if I mind that it's there. Are my Human Rights being invaded ?

Our Response:
Make a complaint to the company first of all. If you're not satisfied with their response, send a letter asking them to re-site the camera that's focused on yourproperty and suggest that you will take legal action if it's not moved. You may then have to consider legal action or a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
ProtectingYourself - 11-Sep-17 @ 11:43 AM
A Haulage Company has erected all round Security cameras in it's yard. One of the cameras is at the bottom of my garden, and it overlooks my garden completely. As I have not been notified or asked if I mind that it's there. Are my Human Rights being invaded ?
Mick - 8-Sep-17 @ 8:21 PM
Rooboo - Your Question:
Hi. We have a tenant in our granny flat. It is part of our house, but a separate flat. He is paranoid and thinks someone, us, is coming into the flat and snooping. He has told us, He is installing security cameras in the flat to check what is going on when he is not there. Why tell us if he thinks it is us? My concern is, I am a music teacher and have a lot of young children, under 16 coming to my home for lessons. They park and walk in front of the flat Windows to get access to my music room. How do I ensure he is not capturing any images of children coming to my house? And what can I do about it? Thanks

Our Response:
Speak to your local police, they may be willing to come out and have a look at the CCTV and where it's sited. If you're worried about the images and what he's doing with them, there's not much you can do short of legal action, but you would need proof.
ProtectingYourself - 21-Aug-17 @ 2:38 PM
Hi. We have a tenant in our granny flat. It is part of our house, but a separate flat. He is paranoid and thinks someone, us, is coming into the flat and snooping. He has told us, He is installing security cameras in the flat to check what is going on when he is not there. Why tell us if he thinks it is us? My concern is, I am a music teacher and have a lot of young children, under 16 coming to my home for lessons. They park and walk in front of the flat Windows to get access to my music room. How do I ensure he is not capturing any images of children coming to my house? And what can I do about it? Thanks
Rooboo - 18-Aug-17 @ 3:14 PM
Crafty - Your Question:
My Neighbour has put up a CCTV camera from their house looking towards one of their cars parked outside off my house. Although I have a large hedge around my property they can still see me coming out off my gate or when im walking pass my own house, I feel very uncomfortable but unable to speck to them as they will shout and swear to me. Are they breaking the law and if so who do I report them too.

Our Response:
If you're unhappy and feel your privacy is being impinged, you should speak with your local police. They'll take a look and let you know whether anything can be done.
ProtectingYourself - 16-Aug-17 @ 1:53 PM
My Neighbour has put up a CCTV camera from their house looking towards one of their cars parked outside off my house.Although I have a large hedge around my property they can still see me coming out off my gate or when im walking pass my own house,I feel very uncomfortable but unable to speck to them as they will shout and swear to me.Are they breaking the law and if so who do I report them too.
Crafty - 14-Aug-17 @ 9:37 PM
A builder has started a development right next to our golf club. One of the owners has put a camera on his garden wall pointing to a tee close to his house. Should we inform him that what he is doing is illegal and to cease immediately.
Big ears - 30-Jul-17 @ 6:29 PM
Hi there i am going to be putting some cctv up on my realtives house its a terrace house but the only problem is they have the main door in there garden but they have a comual entrance what leads out to the nabors garden would it be a breach if a cctv camra coverd the comual entrance
Dasiy - 13-Jul-17 @ 12:38 PM
Our neighbourtwo doors down has black dome shape cctv how do I know they not spying on us in garden at front and back of our house
Buster - 3-Jul-17 @ 3:50 PM
Wits end - Your Question:
We live in a mid terrace with a legal right of access across our neighbours garden, the house has recently been rented out but the tenant has decided that she does not want us walk across her garden so she has started to barricade our gate with objects which have progressively become larger and harder to move. We are using solicitors to try to stop her doing this and have gathered photographic evidence but now would like to install a video camera on our property that can see both sides of the gate so that she cannot deny that she is the one putting the objects against the access gate. Is it legal to video on to other people's property or against the law to do so, she has told another neighbour that she is doing this to drive us out.

Our Response:
You should not really erect CCTV if it's focused on another person'sproperty. We're not sure what the situation is with shared access routes though; your solicitor should be able to tell you this.
ProtectingYourself - 3-Jul-17 @ 12:34 PM
We live in a mid terrace with a legal right of access across our neighbours garden, the house has recently been rented out but the tenant has decided that she does not want us walk across her garden so she has started to barricade our gate with objects which have progressively become larger and harder to move. We are using solicitors to try to stop her doing this and have gathered photographic evidence but now would like to install a video camera on our property that can see both sides of the gate so that she cannot deny that she is the one putting the objects against the access gate. Is it legal to video on to other people's property or against the law to do so, she has told another neighbour that she is doing this to drive us out.
Wits end - 1-Jul-17 @ 7:33 PM
I have installed CCTV back and front of myproperty do i have to display any signs
Bill - 7-Jun-17 @ 7:49 PM
I'd very much like your professional opinion on this issue ( ON A VERY SMALL YALE IP SMART HOME CAMERA ) I have been informed THAT MYSELF BEING A STOCKPORT HOUSING TENANT for over 12 years by housing officer that Im branching my tenantry agreement with Stockport homes due too installing this one camera which is in my porch only looking in to my front garden and front door ( mainly because it makes me feel safer as I can see who calling at my front door before I answer ? (As I live alone It truly makes me feel a lot safer) Now I informed I have broken my tenantry agreement ? It's been fitted nearly 2 years and it's the first time anybody has said a single word too me ? So please would you be kind enough to give me your professional guidance. Thank you very much for your time. Yours sincerely Donald Milward
Don't believe this - 6-Jun-17 @ 1:58 AM
How far from my bedroom window can my landlord place a secruity camera? I live in the state of California.
Keesh - 30-May-17 @ 12:43 AM
I have installed CCTV to protect our cars and only is only filming on our property (camera pointing down and along the house) I have now noticed that the house opposite has, what looks like, a portable camera in the upstairs window, POINTING DIRECTLY at my house. Is this legal?If not, what do I do about it?
Hmmmm! - 5-May-17 @ 3:32 PM
I have installed CCTV to protect our cars and the cameras around my property are only covering my property.I have noticed the person directly opposite has now'placed' a portable camera in their upstairs window and is pointing directly at my house.Is this illegal for them to do?
Hmmmm! - 5-May-17 @ 3:28 PM
Kaz - Your Question:
I have had cctv put around my property as I have had a few garden thefts so literally just put it up for security do I need stickers to state I have cctv?

Our Response:
Not for domestic CCTV. Make sure the camera is not focused outside of your garden area (i.e in any public areas).
ProtectingYourself - 26-Apr-17 @ 12:03 PM
I have had cctv put around my property as I have had a few garden thefts so literally just put it up for security do I need stickers to state I have cctv?
Kaz - 25-Apr-17 @ 5:30 AM
Hi I live in a tenement house that's made up of 6 individual flats. I have had several issues with antisocial behaviour concerning the individuals to one of these dwellings. The antisocial behaviour extended to damage of my vehicle whilst parked on the driveway to the property. The property is maintained by HA and an agreement was in place that I could install and maintain cctv footage covering the spaces in which I can park. The cctv is live, records a weeks worth of footage and then overwrites and is protected with a passcode. The cctv covers the driveway and also the side entrances to the property that does capture part of a communal alley way that leads into the garden. The camera that faces the garden covers only the back gate but not the grass area. The other cameras face into the entire driveway since there is no guarantee to which parking space I can park my car. My question is whether or not the cameras are legally positioned or whether I should reposition to allow for them only to cover my property?
TheBadger - 12-Apr-17 @ 10:07 PM
Tone - Your Question:
I've got a CTV Camera that is set so that it does not interfer with privacy of other Tennant's. Yet for some reason the Camera has been moved several times while I'm away from home in order to get me in trouble. Where do I stand in this matter. I am getting hassle from the landlord.

Our Response:
Surely you can see who's moving the camera? (Assuming it's switched on).
ProtectingYourself - 5-Apr-17 @ 1:31 PM
For permitted development of CCTV at a sports club can you clarify 2 of the rules please: The rules state: Not permitted if: F1 (e) any part of the camera when installed, altered or replaced, be in contact with the surface of the building at a point which is more than 1 metre from any other point of contact. Can you explain this one to me - is it pertaining to corners of a building and where are the cameras permitted to be? and F1 (f) any part of the camera would be less than 10m from any part of another camera installed on a building. Is this measured along the wall including corners etc or measured point to point ignoring corners etc Is there a diagram explaining this in easy to understand terms please? Thanks Jeff
Phantom - 28-Mar-17 @ 7:50 PM
caro - Your Question:
Can I put a secret spycam in the flat I rent? There is a locked door which connects to the rest of the house and I want to make sure that the landlord does not break the tenancy agreement by illegally entering my rented property.

Our Response:
There is nothing to prevent you filming in your own property but you cannot film communal entrances etc.
ProtectingYourself - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:05 AM
Can I put a secret spycam in the flat I rent? There is a locked door which connects to the rest of the house and I want to make sure that the landlord does not break the tenancy agreement by illegally entering my rented property.
caro - 21-Mar-17 @ 7:02 AM
I work for a homecare agency. It's common for families of disabled children and vulnerable people to install cameras to provide evidence of any wrongdoing or poor practice by agency carers and we support them in this. However, we wonder if such practice is always reasonable. What if a camera was covertly installed in a bathroom, ostensibly to monitor the delivery of personal care, but which could also capture a carer's toilet break. Recording devices could be used to listen in on carers' confidential conversations with others. Is there some official guidance for home owners in respect of recording visitors?
Kevin - 7-Mar-17 @ 12:10 PM
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