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Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 18 Jun 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 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
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
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