Personal use of CCTV
New technology means that more homes now have cameras installed. This could be to monitor the interior or exterior of a property, or connected to a doorbell enabling checks of the person at the door. Individuals also use other devices, such as dash-cams, action cameras and drones.
In this section, the term ‘CCTV’ describes any camera or device that processes or records images of people. As those images identify living individuals, they are “personal data” and the data protection legislation (“the DP law”) applies, in most circumstances to the processing of that personal data. However, the DP law does not apply to the use of CCTV by a natural person for their purely personal or household activities.
The Commissioner does not "authorise","licence", or "approve" the installation and use of CCTV, but provides guidance on how to ensure that the use of CCTV complies with the data protection legislation.
CCTV on domestic property
If you install CCTV on domestic property, you should avoid capturing neighbours’ properties as this intrudes upon their privacy. Many CCTV systems come with audio recording facilities. Audio recording is particularly privacy intrusive and should be disabled.
The DP law does NOT apply to CCTV that only records images of individuals who are:
- inside your domestic property; or
- within the boundary of your domestic property
as this will be for purely personal or household activities.
The DP law DOES apply to CCTV installed at a domestic property in all other circumstances and you should read the CCTV guidance for "controllers" to understand the law and all your obligations.
If a camera or device captures images of people in any public space, such as a footpath, roadway, shared parking area or communal entrance, etc., this does not mean that you are breaching the DP law, but it does mean that you are a “controller”.
As a “controller”, you must comply with the DP law, including the data protection principles and individuals’ rights.
“Controllers” are accountable for the processing of personal data and must:
- display signage advising that CCTV is in operation, which includes details about how the “controller” can be contacted;
- keep CCTV images for no longer than necessary;
- keep CCTV images secure;
- comply with the the rights of individuals, in particular the right to request, and be given, copies of their personal data (i.e. CCTV images of them), or request their personal data to be erased.
“Controllers” must also register with the Commissioner, for which an annual fee is payable.
Individuals can complain to the Commissioner about the use of CCTV to record their activities (i.e. whether the processing of their personal data captured via CCTV complies with the data protection legislation) and the Commissioner may ask you to demonstrate how you comply with the DP law.
You should also be aware that other laws that protect individuals from harassment or voyeurism might apply and people can complain to the police or local authority.
Individuals may also seek compensation from a “controller” if they suffer any damage by the processing. For example:
- Oxford County Court damages for breach of the data protection legislation and harassment - Fairhurst v Woodard - May 2021
- the Scottish Court awarded damages of more than £17,000 in total for the "extreme stress" people suffered as a result of the "highly intrusive" use of CCTV systems by the owner of a neighbouring property.
Private individuals should therefore carefully consider their use of surveillance equipment. Regardless of whether the DP law applies or not, CCTV should be used in a responsible way that respects the privacy of others.
Dash-cams, action cameras and drones
The use of these, or similar, devices is subject to the same considerations as CCTV installed on domestic property. Recording your own activity, for example, mountain biking or horse riding, is likely to be for your own enjoyment and will be for your “purely personal or household activities”. Other uses of the images or footage, such as publication on social media, are unlikely to be for “purely personal or household activities”.
Specific guidance on the use of dash cams is available below.
Police requests for recorded images
The police may actively seek public assistance and ask for relevant CCTV footage to investigate incidents. You will not contravene the DP law by giving the police relevant footage or access to your CCTV in such circumstances. However, you are not obliged to do so.