Crime-fighting CCTV cameras could be unlawful

With increasing numbers of homeowners investing in CCTV cameras and smart doorbell systems to protect their properties every year, a leading Coventry and Warwickshire solicitor is warning of the dangers of breaching data protection laws

Millions of homes across the UK are now equipped with extra protection and with no sign of the home security market slowing down, Brindley Twist Tafft and James is warning homeowners to take extra care when installing their cameras to ensure they comply with privacy.

The warning follows the case of Fairhurst v Woodard in which the claimant had brought an action against the defendant who had installed a camera on their shed which was linked with a doorbell system.

The system showed not only the defendant’s driveway but also the claimant’s house and garden. The cameras also had the ability to capture images of the claimant as they moved around inside their property.

Furthermore, the devices had also collected audio data which had been processed unlawfully, although it hadn’t been possible to turn off the audio recording facility until a later software update became available.

Ruling in favour of the claimant, the judge said: “Personal data may have been captured from people who are not even aware that the device is there, or that it records and processes audio and personal data.”

The most recent estimate, in November 2020, put the number of CCTV cameras in the UK at more than 5.2 million – equating to one camera for every 13 people in the country. Of these, some 96 per cent are owned and operated by homeowners and private businesses.

John Ward, Partner Dispute Resolution at BTTJ, said under the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) said every homeowner should be mindful of their security cameras capturing footage of public areas and shared spaces and settings should be adjusted accordingly so they don’t intrude on neighbouring properties and are not looking out on public spaces. Audio settings should also be adjusted to ensure privacy among neighbours and passers-by.

Residents should also ensure that every camera is serving the purpose of preventing crime. Any camera placed in such a way that it doesn’t help prevent crime, but which overlooks neighbouring spaces or public places, would be in breach of the legislation.

He said: “The judge’s decision has made the position very clear. If you are using CCTV then you must take into account and respect the privacy wishes of your neighbours and take measures to minimise any surveillance that might affect them.”

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