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Use of surveillance cameras must be necessary and proportionate

Burnetts' information law solicitor Natalie Ruane looks at a case concerning the use of surveillance cameras.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned operators that surveillance cameras must only be used as a necessary and proportionate response to a real and pressing problem. 

Last month the ICO published its updated CCTV Code of Practice.  This can be found on the ICO website.  The update looks at the data protection requirements placed on operators of new and emerging surveillance technologies including drones and body worn video cameras.  The technology on the market today is able to pick out even more people to be recorded in ever greater detail.  The UK is one of the leading users of CCTV and other surveillance technologies in the world. 

The ICO Head of Strategic Liaison, Jonathan Bamford, said:

“Surveillance cameras should not be deployed as a quick fix, but a proportionate response to a real and pressing problem.  Putting in surveillance cameras or technology… is often seen as the first option, but before deploying it you need to understand the problem and whether that is an effective and proportionate solution.”

The ICO’s CCTV Code of Practice compliments the provisions in the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice which applies to police forces and local authorities.  The ICO’s guidance covers a wider area as the Data Protection Act applies to all sectors processing personal information across the whole of the UK, including the private sector.  The Data Protection Act does not apply to people using CCTV for their domestic use.

The updated Code explains how CCTV can be used to process peoples’ personal data.  The guide sets out the considerations that operators should think about before installing such surveillance technology.  It goes on to consider the measures that organisations should have in place to make sure excessive amounts of personal information are not being collected and what organisations should do to make sure the information is kept secure and destroyed once it is no longer required.

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014
Categorised: Employment, Information Law

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