CCTV & The Law: What You Can & Can’t Record on CCTV

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More and more homeowners are turning to CCTV home security systems as a way to protect their properties yet few people are aware of the legislation in the UK that covers the use of this technology.

In this guide, we take a look at the key information that you should be aware of when adopting CCTV home security including your legal responsibilities.

Note: The law in the UK distinguishes between commercial CCTV and domestic CCTV; for the purposes of this document, we are referring to CCTV use in the home.

Home CCTV Use and the Law

The need for CCTV cameras to protect your property and to provide you with the peace of mind of having state-of-the-art surveillance technology to keep your home secure is protected in UK law.

However, there is a responsibility for the CCTV operator to comply with existing statutes on an individuals’ right to privacy.

The role of Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) was therefore established in 2013 to encourage compliance and provide advice about the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice 2013 (the ‘SCCOP’).

The SCCOP is mainly aimed at commercial CCTV installations.

In addition, the Data Protection Act (DPA) also covers the use of CCTV surveillance and gives an individual the right to access information held about them; this includes recordings obtained via CCTV if these have been taken in a public place.

Other legislation covering CCTV use includes the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

All of this legislation is enforced by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

Right to Privacy vs Right to Protect Property

Domestic CCTV installations are largely exempt from most of the legislation and provisions laid out in the above Acts; however, it is important that you ensure that your cameras are installed so as not to record footage of any public areas such as a public right of way that crosses your land or across your own boundaries.

CCTV and the Law uk privacy
The right to privacy is protected under current legislation. Image via Blue Diamond Gallery.

With fixed bullet cameras this is easier to comply with but with PTZ cameras that allow the operator to adjust the viewing field, you may find yourself accidentally recording footage of a public space.

The SCC acknowledges that you have a right to protect your property using a CCTV system but it is your responsibility to ensure that, in doing so, you are respecting other people’s right to privacy.

Obligations for Homeowners on Domestic CCTV Use

It is important to note that you, as the homeowner and operator, are personally responsible for ensuring that your CCTV home security system is fully compliant with the following guidelines. In this way, it is essential that you only choose a CCTV installer who is fully conversant with the latest regulations on home security.

The following principles are at the core of compliance with the SCCOP:

  • Assessing the need for CCTV
  • Assessing the impact of your CCTV system on the privacy of others
  • Ensuring transparency when using CCTV and using signage where appropriate
  • Ensuring your CCTV system is correctly installed
  • Ensuring you know how to use your CCTV system
  • Storing footage taken from your CCTV system correctly
  • Maintaining your CCTV system

Do you need put signs up when you have a CCTV system?

If your CCTV installation has any view outside of the perimeter of your own property then you should make this transparent to those around you by:

  • putting up a notice informing people that your CCTV system is recording footage. This is also another way to maximise the visibility of your home security system.
  • informing your neighbour(s) about your CCTV system.
CCTV and the Law uk private land cctv signs
Signs warn others of the presence of CCTV & is a visible deterrent. Image via Geograph.

Do I have to let my neighbours know about my CCTV system?

If your CCTV camera(s) captures images from outside the confines of your own property then those images are subject to the DPA.

You can find out more information about the impact of the DPA on home CCTV recordings via the ICO website.

Even if your CCTV system is not focused on areas outside your property, we would always recommend letting your neighbours know so you can assure them that there is no invasion of their privacy. Doing this in advance of your installation can reduce any potential conflict when your system is live.

What are my responsibilities?

You are responsible for ensuring  that your CCTV home security system is correctly installed and for all of the information recorded by that system.

You must ensure that the information obtained from your CCTV system is not used for any purposes other than for protecting your property.

For these reasons, it is vital that you fully understand how your CCTV system operates.

What can I not record?

You may record any aspect of your own property as long as it does not contravene any privacy laws in relation to your neighbours and/or members of the public.

You may not record any conversations between members of the public.

What about storing footage from my CCTV system?

You should make sure that the date and time programmed into your CCTV system are accurate and that you have sufficient storage space for recording.

Data should not be stored longer than is necessary and you must regularly delete the information you have obtained once it is no longer required.

It is standard practice to keep data recorded by your CCTV system for 31 days.

Can I share footage taken on my CCTV?

Images and information obtained via your CCTV should only be used for the purposes for which the system was originally intended (i.e. sharing with the police for reasons of security).

If you are required to provide footage taken on your CCTV system as evidence then you should be aware that only high-quality footage is usually permissible in court. For this reason, it is essential that you opt for cameras that are capable of recording in high-definition.

It is not appropriate to share footage on social media sites taken from your home CCTV system.

sharing cctv footage on social media

However ‘amusing’ your CCTV footage is, you should not share it on social media , doing so could violate privacy laws. Image via pxhere.

Do I need to check my CCTV installation?

It is important that you check the position of your camera from time to time to ensure that the field of focus is still as installed. Over time, camera fixings may become loose or be knocked out of position. Though this should not happen with a quality installation, a regular check should ensure that you do not inadvertently capture images from outside of the cameras original scope.

It is also worth having a regular maintenance check on your CCTV system to ensure that the cameras are working correctly and are kept clean of debris.

Complaints About Residential CCTV Surveillance

CCTV home security is often installed as a means to deter criminal and anti-social behaviour yet the police, ICO and SCC can, and do, receive complaints from members of the public and neighbours about home installations.

The most common complaint is from neighbours who level accusations that cameras are being used to spy on them and their properties.

In order to avoid this kind of problem, it is essential that you ensure your CCTV home security system has been installed by a professional company who can advise on the guidelines to protect the privacy of others.

Here at Connect 4 CCTV, we ensure that all of our installations are professionally carried out to minimise the risk of intrusion to your neighbours and any public spaces without compromising the protection of your property. We can advise on the use of privacy filters and, if the installation must include a focus on a space which includes a space external to the perimeter of your home, we can also give you a full breakdown of your responsibilities.

For more information on CCTV home security, contact one of our team of security professionals today to discuss your requirements.

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