Data Protection Act, CCTV Cameras and the Law

This home protection and security question was answered by Tom Locks, Managing Director of Home Star Security in Crowborough, Tonbridge.

Q: Recently there’s been a spate of break-ins in my local area. I already have a burglar alarm installed, but want to increase the security of my home even more – would CCTV be a good idea, and is it legal to install cameras in a domestic property?

A: CCTV is becoming even more popular as a security device– according to the CCTV User Group; there are around 1.5 million systems in operation in the UK. As it has grown in popularity, CCTV has become an affordable way to secure properties, deter criminals and capture evidence of criminal activity. However, if you’re planning on installing security cameras, you’ll need to know about UK CCTV law.

Planning Permission and Building Regulations for CCTV

You won’t need planning permission to install CCTV, but if you live in a conservation area or listed building it’s worth double checking this with your Local Building Authority. Building regulations also don’t apply to CCTV installation unless the work involves installing a lot of cables, in which case the installer should follow electrical safety guidelines.

CCTV Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 regulates how CCTV is used to protect privacy. It’s important to note that this CCTV privacy law does not apply to domestic properties – so if you’re installing a CCTV camera outside your home to protect from burglary, you don’t need to worry about complying with legislation. However, you should make sure that the camera doesn’t breach the privacy of other unnecessarily; so be careful when pointing it at a neighbour’s property.

The Data Protection Act and CCTV for commercial installations

Businesses, as well as public and commercial organisations do need to adhere to the Data Protection Act when installing CCTV systems. The regulations state that businesses installing CCTV should:

  • Let the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) know about the installation and provide them with the name of the person responsible for the system
  • Ensure that all CCTV cameras produce clear images
  • Ensure the public are aware that CCTV cameras are present – the easiest way to do this is to display clear signs, which should include the name and contact information of the organisation in charge of the CCTV system (where this information isn’t immediately obvious)
  • Not install cameras in changing rooms or toilets without very serious cause – if they choose to do this signs must make extra clear that CCTV is operating in these areas
  • Not record conversations between members of the public
  • Store footage securely and destroy it after the appropriate period of time
  • Not share CCTV footage with third party groups or organisations, unless as part of legal proceedings
  • Supply footage to those they have filmed upon their request within 40 calendar days of receiving the request and for a maximum charge of £10
  • Carry out regular checks to ensure the CCTV system is functioning properly

A professional CCTV installation company can provide further advice on how to make sure your CCTV installation complies with the law.

Doktor Jon says:

Just to quickly clarify a couple of points …..

Planning permission may be required for CCTV cameras that are installed contrary to the “Permitted Development” rules that apply to most CCTV cameras installed on the outside of any premises (domestic / residential properties included).

Also the Data Protection Act does not apply to all CCTV Systems. Where a CCTV installation is incapable of collecting identifiable personal data, or it is exclusively used for the investigation of criminal activity ( post event ), then it may not need to notify or comply under the DPA.

ablyth says:

Thanks for the additional information. Yes, it’s a good idea to double check with your Local Building Authority to see whether you need planning permission for all home improvement projects, especially if you live in a listed building or conservation area. You can also consult them for further info on CCTV installation if you need to.

CCTV systems and also IP cameras are excellent products used in order to safeguard people, homes and also businesses. Their existence can discourage would be offenders from carrying out bad things. Purchasing these types of devices are undoubtedly worth it.

ablyth says:

Thanks for your comment – yes, if you can afford it, CCTV is a great home security asset.

Saumya says:

If i was a victim of theft in a clothes store, am i within my rights to ask to see CCTV footage?

sdeshmukh says:

Yes you have the right to see CCTV footage. Check out this link to get more info – https://www.gov.uk/request-cctv-footage-of-yourself

Allan Brown says:

I am a victim of persistent attacks on my home by youths throwing bricks and other items from the road. Can I get permission for a CCTV to cover the road, if so, how do I go about it?

sdeshmukh says:

Hi Allan,
I am pretty sure it is legal to install a CCTV for your safety. The only thing you have to keep in mind is your CCTV shouldn’t point to anyone’s private property. Refer to this link to get more information. You may also confirm from the CCTV company to will use to install the CCTV system. If you want to get free no-obligation quotes for CCTV installation then fill out this form.

Arj says:

Please can anyone let me know can Councils put CTTV on Public Streets with any signs indicating or warning residents on these streets CCTV has been put?
l have noticed that Council have put CCTV on few streets , but have not put any signs warning people the CCTV is there, l have asked the Council if it is there CCTV they have said yes and the CCTV have been working for some years,but No signs have ever been put up by these CCTV’s is this allowed?

Any answer and information on this matter is much appreciated.

mjackson says:

Hi,
CCTV regulations may vary depending on the area you live therefore we suggest searching online for ”Council CCTV policy” in your local area.
We hope this helps.

Doktor Jon says:

Arj,
If your Local Authority are operating a CCTV system ( its called Public Space Surveillance or PSS ) then they are required to comply with the Data Protection -Act, within which is a requirement to provide suitable signage that informs the public precisely who is operating the camera/s.
Also under the recently introduced Protection of Freedoms Act, Councils are now also required to comply with the Surveillance Camera Commissioners ‘CCTV Code of Practice’, details of which you can easily find online.

Anthony Collings says:

If I have been into a store and tried clothes on where I believe there to be cctv in the changing rooms can I ask them if they have cctv in there fitting rooms and if so can I request I see thee footage of me whilst in there?

mjackson says:

Hi Anthony,

We suggest contacting the store in question and asking whether a. they have CCTV in the fitting rooms and b. if so, can you request to see the footage.

We hope that this helps.

Mark @ ServiceMagic

Claire says:

Hi there.
We have recently moved and I have been made aware that our neibours opposite have CCTV that actually covers part or all of our property. Is this aloud? If not then how is best to go about solving this problem.
We feel we are entitled to our privacy
Thanks

mjackson says:

Hi Claire,

There is not a huge amount they an do, it would only be an issue if the camera is recording your parents in their house.

This is from the Police FAQ section:

“Many people are installing CCTV in their properties as a home security measure as it has proved to be an effective tool in fighting crime. If the camera is recording you in your home, a place where you would expect to have total privacy then there could be an issue with regards to invasion of privacy.
Firstly, it would be advisable to speak to your neighbour to see if it is possible to move the camera so that it does not point at your property. If this is not possible and you want to take further action you would need to seek legal advice from a solicitor.”

I hope that this information helps

Mark @ Servicemagic

sonia says:

hello there. my partner has recently placed cctv cameras in our back garden and also outside our front door. Due to recent theft, would we have to put a sign up for this. As we have told we have to. would be grateful for your feedback.
thank you

mjackson says:

Hi Sonia,

The best people to ask would be your local council who may have specific rules in regards to this.

Annoyed girl says:

Is someone allowed to show CCTV footage off you to a pile off people and listen in on your conversation,now the whole town knows about it,and is making life difficult,and they said they could hear conversation,also they had no sign displaying CCTV footage.very annoyed considering I was only doing an act off kindness by rescuing an animal that was goin to be killed for sport.

mjackson says:

Hi,

As we aren’t experts in this subject, we would suggest contacting your local council service who should be able to advise on residence rights.

steve james says:

hi my neibour has installed a cctv camera that hAS NIGHT VISION AND RECORDS WE LIVE IN A CONSERVATION AREA HIS CAMERA IS ABOVE AN UPSTAIRS WINDOW THERE ARE ONLY TWO HOUSES WHERE WE LIVE HIS CAMERA IS POINTING IN THE DIRECTION OF OUR GARDEN IS THIS ALLOWED

mjackson says:

Hi Steve,

The first thing i would suggest would be to speak to your neighbour, letting them know of your concerns as you might be able to work something out without having to take legal advice.
If that fails then you would have to contact the citizens advice bureau who will advise further.

We hope this helps.

John says:

Since 1996 you do need planning permission to have CCTV cameras at a residential building if, you have more than 4 cameras, and or the distance between any two camera is less than 10 metres, and or if any camera is less than 2.3 metres from ground level.

Also if you change or upgrade your cameras they must meet the current legislation at the time.

mjackson says:

Hi John,

Thanks for the info – we will make sure it’s added to the article comments.

Servicemagic

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