CameraWatch was launched in Edinburgh yesterday. Despite it’s name, it is not an activist group, it is an industry-funded advisory group. However, it did start with a few tips that may be useful to activists facing prosecution using CCTV images.

“Research shows that up to 90% of CCTV installations fail to comply with the Information Commissioner’s UK CCTV Code of Practice and many installations are operated illegally. That has profound implications for the reputation of the CCTV and camera surveillance industry and all concerned with it. It‚s clear there is a need for an organisation dedicated to promoting the legal and effective use of CCTV. I’m not surprised there’s confusion. It’s a complex area not just covering appropriate siting and signage issues, but also various pieces of legislation. In particular, the Data Protection Act covers images of people and requires they are held securely if the data is to be used as legal and admissible evidence. Storing images of people is also impacted by the EU Human Rights Act. As things stand today, clever legal counsel could drive a horse and cart through most CCTV evidence and that is not in anybody’s best interests.” (except the defendents !)

“The Data Protection Act is breached in several common ways. The most frequent is the failure to keep camera tapes secure. Under the Act, human images should be treated as confidential information in the same way as names, addresses and phone numbers. The arrival of digital cameras poses yet more problems; for the images can be transferred across open internet connections rather than remaining on a closed loop. Viewing monitors are often wrongly sited in public areas, so other people can see who is being filmed, and a number of the 3,500 CCTV systems are not registered under the Data Protection Act, as is required. Additionally, cameras are frequently used for another purpose than the one for which they were registered and the necessary clear signage is regularly missing.”

90% of CCTV is illegal

Illegal CCTV Update

Last month it was reported that 90% of CCTV systems are illegal.
Someone asked how to find out more about which CCTV systems are illegal so I asked the Information Commisioners Office, who just replied.

“Not all data controllers are required to notify under the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purpose of CCTV. We have produced guidance that helps data controllers to determine whether they are required to notify for the purpose of CCTV which is available on the ICO website under the heading ‘For organisations’, then click on CCTV. We are not required, and do not to keep a list of data controllers that are not registered under the Data Protection Act 1998. Notification is a self-assessment process whereby each organisation determines if notification is required. The total number of data controllers whose notification include the purpose of CCTV P113 – Crime Prevention and Prosecution of Offenders is 49,486. We are unable to break this number down on a more local level unless you have a specific postcode/s that we could narrow the search criteria down to. If you would like the search to be narrowed to specific postcodes, please advise accordingly. Alternatively, you carry out searches on the public register of data controllers available on our website.”

Requirement to Register:

“The UK has more public and private CCTV systems per person than anywhere else in the world. Because of this, it’s an area in which we’re taking a great deal of interest. If you have a very basic CCTV system, its use may not be covered by the Data Protection Act. For example, if you’re a small shopkeeper with a couple of cameras you can’t move remotely which record whatever the system picks up and only give the recorded images to the police as a result of an incident in your shop, then you’re not covered by the Act. However, if your system is more advanced and allows you to zoom in on an individual member of staff whose behaviour is causing you concern, or you use cameras to monitor the movements and activities of your workforce, you’ll need to inform us. You’ll also need to let us know if you give the recorded images to anyone other than the police or a similar law enforcement agency. The highly sophisticated CCTV systems used in large shops, railway stations, town centres and other places where large numbers of people gather are designed to focus on particular people or identify criminal activity. These types of images are covered by the Act, but if a general scene is recorded without an incident occurring, the pictures are not covered.
In summary, if the image recorded is aimed at learning about a particular person’s activities, then it’s covered by the act.”

The search page is here:

I’ve just been playing around with their database. This database contains ALL DP records so you have to look out for mention of CCTV. The first thing I notice is it isn’t very well programmed. You have to put the postcode in with a space between the two parts of the postcode so SW11AA doesn’t work, but SW1 1AA does. [As an aside, this is the postcode for Fuckingham Palace, which returns THE PRIVATE SECRETARY FOR THE HOUSEHOLD OF HRH THE PRINCESS ROYAL, and one of the dataclasses Princess Ann records is ‘Sexual Life’ – I would love to see the subcategories she records for her employees sexual life ]. You can search on the first part of a postcode ie SW1 but if more than 100 records are found then none are returned and you are asked to refine your search. Again, sloppy, sloppy programming – I doubt any private or activist database would be this hard to search so it almost seems half-hearted, ‘security through obscurity’.

So I started searching on CCTV systems I know about. I searched on the postcode of an industrial estate that is ringed with a sophisticated CCTV system, The individual companies CCTV within that estate were returned, but no mention was made of the estates CCTV. I don’t know why and will submit a further question to the ICO about this, but at best it takes them weeks to respond. The cameras are obviously sophisticated not to be exempt from the various acts. It may be a police system and perhaps these are exempt, or it may be one of the 90% illegal systems. I’ll ask the ICO, and if I get no intelligible response, I’ll test it by breaking one of the cameras and waiting for the police to respond. Here is a sample record for a legal CCTV system – I wonder what would happen if someone committed a criminal act on the 22nd of October at that location ? There must be a lot of registered systems whose registrations are about to expire…

Illegal CCTV Update

CameraWatch is an independent, not-for-profit, self-funding advisory body* that will support organisations impacted by CCTV and their understanding and compliance with current policy and legislation:

Nearly all cameras illegal, says watchdog : Times

New justice minister to launch CCTV advisory body : The Firm

Hidden CCTV

The ‘bug’ sweeper; Pro Hunter overview:

Maplins Bug Sweeper

Surveillance of Nottingham city centre