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The Information Commissioner's Office is warning that CCTV must not be used to record conversations between members of the public.

The ICO has launched a consultation on its new draft CCTV code of practice, in which it states that audio recording is "highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified". If a CCTV system is equipped with a sound recording capability, it should always be turned off or disabled, the ICO says.

The code of practice is aimed at organisations which routinely capture images of individuals on CCTV, in order to help them comply with the Data Protection Act. It reflects technological developments and changes to the way CCTV is used to monitor individuals. The growth of video systems with audio features is one key area covered.

In another new move, the ICO is encouraging organisations to carry out an impact assessment to determine whether CCTV is justified, how it will be operated, and what effect CCTV may have on individuals. The code also provides advice on the retention and use of CCTV images and outlines circumstances when it would be appropriate to disclose images captured on video, such as to the police when investigating a crime.

Jonathan Bamford, assistant commissioner at the ICO, said: "It is clear that use of CCTV enjoys a lot of public support and can have benefits such as helping with the detection of crime. However, it can be extremely intrusive, putting law abiding people under surveillance.

"It is essential that the public is confident that CCTV is being used responsibly and for a proper purpose."

The consultation on the draft code of practice closes on 31 October, 2007.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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