Spy Cameras And The Law - The 10 Essentials You Need To Know

If you’re planning to use surveillance cameras, it’s important to familiarise yourself on the legal side of things. Here are the 10 key points you need to know:

  1. If you share your recordings without the subject’s consent, you could be in breach of Data Protection laws. This means sharing it online or with third parties, or even losing the footage.
  2. You cannot use surveillance cameras in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, in toilets, changing rooms and locker rooms in the workplace.
  3. It is legal to film in a property you own, such as a home or business, as long as you are doing it for a legitimate and legal reason. If you can demonstrate a legitimate reason for operating spy cameras, such as gathering evidence for a legal case or due to security concerns, then you can legally film on 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 either the inside or the exterior.
  5. You mustn’t invade anyone else’s privacy when filming in public spaces. For example, if you were using surveillance cameras to catch fly-tippers on your street or filming outside your property to ward off intruders, you must only point your cameras at the spot in question – not into your neighbour’s bedroom window.
  6. If you’re 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 Commissioner’s Office. This is another part of the Data Protection Act, as 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’re filming in secret, 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’re filming in the workplace, there are several things you need to do as an employer. These include carrying out an impact assessment, to determine any negative effects the surveillance may have on employees, as well as considering less intrusive alternatives. You should make employees aware of what’s happening and explain the benefits, but if you’ve carried out an impact assessment and can justify the need to film then you don’t usually need to ask for staff member’s consent.

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