Data Protection Act 1998 and CCTV Footage

The role of Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) is to ensure that all personal data is used in a professional and responsible manner, and to eliminate the usage of any data for voyeuristic or entertainment purposes. CCTV images are classified as ‘data’ by the DPA. This means that the Act is applicable to CCTV security systems.

All CCTV systems users must be trained and 'Code of Practice & Operating Procedure' must be produced and circulated. Security guidelines have to be followed when storing all recording devices and recorded media.

Recording devices have to regularly checked and serviced, and to have a maintenance log book. As Police might require the CCTV images for evidential purposes, the recordings should be clear, with correct information about date and time.

The current transition from Tape Based Recording to Digital Recording Systems (DVRs, HVRs, NVRs) has made it easier for users to comply with the DPA and limit the access to the video footage to authorised operators only.

A lot has changed since this time and, while the original code was updated in 2008, further legal, practical and technological developments mean that updated guidance is required. We have moved away from CCTV simply being a camera on top of a pole in our local town centre where the images were recorded on to video tapes, to much more sophisticated operations using digital and increasingly portable technology. The use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) is now commonplace and body worn cameras are being routinely used by organisations, such as the police.

Surveillance cameras are no longer a passive technology that only records and retains images, but is now a proactive one that can be used to identify people of interest and keep detailed records of people’s activities, such as with ANPR cameras. The use of surveillance cameras in this way has aroused public concern due to the technology no longer being used solely to keep people and their property safe, but increasingly being used to collect evidence to inform other decisions, such as the eligibility of a child to attend a school in a particular area.

The unwarranted use of CCTV and other forms of surveillance cameras has led to a strengthening of the regulatory landscape through the passing of the Protection of Freedoms Act (POFA). The POFA has seen the introduction of a new surveillance camera code issued by the Secretary of State since June 2013 and the appointment of a Surveillance Camera Commissioner to promote the code and review its operation and impact.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has contributed to this tougher regulatory landscape by taking enforcement action to restrict the unwarranted and excessive use of increasingly powerful and affordable surveillance technologies.

While the title of this code has changed to highlight its focus on the data protection implications of using CCTV and other forms of surveillance cameras, its objectives remain the same. The ICO has developed this code following extensive consultation. It is designed to help those who use surveillance cameras to collect personal data to stay within the law. For further information please visit ICO’s website.

This information is given as a general guide only. It is not intended to contain definitive legal advice. Professional legal advice should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.