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CCTV warning notices NOT compliant with data protection laws – ICO

Parking's nosy parkers' notes not pukka

The government must take action to ensure that signs used to warn motorists that CCTV cameras are being used to monitor for parking offences are compliant with UK data protection laws, a watchdog has said.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said that there are "deficiencies" in the information displayed to motorists on the warning notices and that they fail to adhere to requirements under the Data Protection Act (DPA).

The DPA requires that individuals' personal data is processed fairly and lawfully. Organisations processing personal data must ensure that individuals to whom the data relates are provided with certain information, including who the "data controller" is, the purposes for which the data is to be processed, and any other "necessary" information about the data processing circumstances that will ensure the processing is fair.

"The first principle [of the DPA] requires that individuals are aware of who is obtaining their data and the purposes for which it will be used for at the time it is collected," the ICO said in response to the Department for Transport's (DfT's) consultation (5-page / 235KB PDF) on local authority parking strategies. "Current parking signs and road signs warning of the use of cameras do not convey this type of information."

"Many signs used by local authorities are for the benefit of pedestrians and imply use of CCTV for public safety purposes. In addition to this inadequacy, it is often not clear to motorists which local authority area they are in, both in rural areas and large conurbations," it said.

The ICO said that there were ways to ensure drivers were suitably informed about the use of CCTV cameras and that it would press the DfT to help ensure that the signs are updated accordingly. It said local authorities had pointed to "restrictions" imposed by the Department as reasons preventing them from displaying the necessary details on the signs to comply with the DPA.

"The Commissioner is mindful of the need for road signs to be clear and not affect the safety of road users where they are driving a vehicle," the ICO said. "In previous discussion with the Department for Transport some time ago he suggested more innovative solutions such as a short ‘.gov.uk’ website address which would provide a ready reference point for road users to find out who is operating cameras at points on the road network. The lack of signs that comply with data protection law cannot be left unresolved and the Commissioner intends to raise this matter again with the Department."

The DfT has outlined its intention to abolish the use of CCTV cameras for parking enforcement. The ICO agreed that CCTV cameras should "not be used routinely by local authorities for on-street parking enforcement". If they are used, there must be a "pressing need" for them and "specific safeguards" around that use should be in place, it said.

The ICO said that it should be made mandatory for local authorities to conduct a privacy impact assessment before deciding to install CCTV cameras for parking enforcement. This would help improve "transparency of decision making" and ensure there is a "proper examination" of the need for the CCTV cameras.

The watchdog said that it intends to update its own code of practice on the use of CCTV cameras later this year.

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