Feeds

CCTV must not record conversations, warns new guidance

'Intrusive and unnecessary'

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) system operators would need exceptional justification for recording sound as well as video, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned.

In a newly revised CCTV code of practice (pdf) the ICO said that sound recording is intrusive and unnecessary in most circumstances, and that the use of sound recording could undermine any public support there is for CCTV.

The UK has more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world according to the ICO. There are an estimated 4.5 million cameras in the country, recording the average person 300 times a day, according to some estimates.

The ICO has raised concerns about a trend for attaching microphones and sound recording equipment to cameras.

"CCTV must not be used to record conversations between members of the public as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified," said the new guidance. "You should choose a system without this facility if possible. If your system comes equipped with a sound recording facility then you should turn this off or disable it in some other way."

The ICO said that there are limited circumstances in which audio could be used, such as help systems where a person can initiate a conversation with an operator. But some things should never be recorded, it said. "Conversations must not be recorded, and operators should not listen in." said the guidance. "In the limited circumstances where audio recording is justified, signs must make it very clear that audio recording is being or may be carried out."

Assistant commissioner at the ICO Jonathan Bamford said that organisations must be careful in their use of cameras and recording equipment. “[CCTV] can be extremely intrusive, monitoring ordinary individuals as they go about their day to day business," he said. "It is essential that organisations and businesses use CCTV responsibly in order to maintain public trust and confidence in the use of CCTV and to prevent its use becoming increasingly viewed as part of the surveillance society."

The ICO conducted a consultation exercise on the new guidance and has just published the updated code of practice.

It also conducted research into the attitudes of the public to audio recording. It said that it found seven out of ten people surveyed were opposed to the use of audio recording as part of CCTV systems. It also found that almost half of those surveyed were not aware that the use of CCTV is covered by the Data Protection Act, one of the laws which the ICO is charged with enforcing.

The introduction of new rules may not do enough to make CCTV systems illegal. CCTV compliance consultant Bernie Brooks told OUT-LAW Radio last year that in his experience 95 per cent of systems were operating outside of existing laws regarding notification of the collection of information and registering with the ICO.

"I would say that 95 per cent are non-compliant in one way, shape, form or another with the [Data Protection] Act," he said. "Obviously that's quite a worrying thing. If the system is non-compliant it could invalidate the usefulness of the evidence in a court of law."

Monday was Data Protection Day. Find out how you can win the textbook on data protection.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.