SPY CAMERAS AND THE LAW

If you plan to use surveillance cameras, familiarising yourself with the legal side is important. Here are the 10 key points you need to know:

  1. You could breach Data Protection laws if you share your recordings without the subject's consent. This means sharing it online with third parties or losing the footage.
  2. You cannot use surveillance cameras in areas with a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, in toilets, changing rooms and locker rooms in the workplace.
  3. It is legal to film on a property you own, such as a home or business, as long as you do it for a legitimate and legal reason. Suppose you can demonstrate a legitimate reason for operating spy cameras, such as gathering evidence for a legal case or due to security concerns. In that case, you can legally film on the property you own.
  4. If you don't own the property, you can't install cameras on or in it. Unless it's your home or business, you don't have the legal right to film the inside or the exterior.
  5. You must not invade anyone else's privacy when filming in public spaces. For example, suppose you were using wifi surveillance cameras to catch fly-tippers on your street or filming outside your property to ward off intruders. In that case, you must only point your cameras at the spot in question and not into your neighbours bedroom window.
  6. If you are filming in public, you must put up signs to make people aware of your cameras. A clear sign alerting members of the public of your CCTV cameras is a legal necessity.
  7. Public filming must also be registered with the Information Commissioners Office. This is another part of the Data Protection Act. By operating CCTV cameras in public, you become a data controller and must register with the ICO, failure to do so is a criminal offence.
  8. If you are filming secretly, using covert cameras, you must only use the footage for its intended purpose. This must also be for a legitimate reason, such as an authentic concern over security.
  9. It is your responsibility to look after the footage. This means not leaving it where just anyone can find it, including attacks by hackers accessing your computer and not sharing or selling it to any third parties. This would be a breach of the Data Protection Act.
  10. If you are filming in the workplace, there are several things you need to do as an employer. These include conducting an impact assessment to determine any negative effects the surveillance may have on employees and considering less intrusive alternatives. You should make employees aware of whats happening and explain the benefits, but if you have carried out an impact assessment and can justify the need to film, you don't usually need to ask for staff members consent.