28 November 2021

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Do you use a safety camera at home, may be to check for thieves or intruders?
Adrian Leopard 226

Do you use a safety camera at home, may be to check for thieves or intruders?

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Be careful to protect yourself if your domestic CCTV is looking at public places or other people’s property

A very recent court case reminds us of what probably most of us have forgotten or perhaps did not know in the first place, namely cameras record “data”.

The chances of coming a cropper over the use of your domestic camera or photographic doorbell are probably fairly remote but it is as well to be aware of your legal obligations in case something does go wrong.

This all comes down to the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]. The case in question arose when a man affixed a CCTV camera on to his shed and it was evident that pictures from the camera were being sent to his smartphone. His neighbour complained and arguments ensued so she moved out of her home and also went to court. The claimant claimed that the neighbour was spying on her. In fact there were two cameras – the other being a Ring doorbell camera. Between them the two cameras covered the claimant’s house and almost all of her garden and parking space.

The court found that audio recordings were also made and that the defendant had unlawfully processed the data.

It is one of those “you can’t make it up” stories. Most people would probably not be filming their neighbours, certainly not deliberately, but there is a serious caveat to this story. In essence you are okay if the camera only records images within your own premises. In those circumstances no action is required. However, and think of those television adverts for Ring doorbells, they often look out in to the street and that is where the problem arises.

If your camera takes pictures off your domestic area and / or people off your premises then you have to comply with the data protection law. Particularly, you have to have a notice saying that data is being collected and the purpose for which it is being collected.

You also have to be able to say how you handle the data and, if you store it, for how long and why! Now of course, you may very justifiably say that the purpose of the data is to catch thieves – that is okay but sadly you have to tell the thieves about it up front! You can of course share your film with the police – as we know the UK is probably one of the most intensely filmed countries in the world.

It can hardly be objectionable to record people coming on to your private property but of course the camera may well see them when they are just walking along a road or a pavement minding their own businesses.

If you operate within the hospitality business you probably have CCTV cameras all over your premises; indeed the police will encourage you to install them because they are able to assist in bringing down rates of crime. If you do have cameras on your premises, you MUST have signs up in suitable locations telling your customers there are cameras catching their images and why you are filming them. Failure to do so is an offence. Sadly it is quite amazing just how many pubs and hotels have not complied with this legal requirement – perhaps they are just not aware of it.

All this goes to show that as always our lives are full of paradoxes – this is why the television news channels are always blanking out people’s faces and car registration numbers – it is their private data and showing it publicly infringes their rights to privacy.

So if you have a Ring doorbell or similar, don’t get rid of it – just make sure that if it is capable of recording images off your own premises that you document why and have a notice up which people can see advising them.

And by the way, do not forget that this whole business of taking people’s private pictures can extend to drones, motorbikes, cars etc. Indeed in some countries it is illegal to have a dash cam in your car. This is a topic fraught with difficulty – don’t get caught out – check it out.

But there is one crumb of comfort, may be the thieves will think twice about coming to your property if they reckon they are going to be filmed.

Adrian Leopard 26-10-21

Photo Etienne Girardet

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