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ICO publishes CCTV Code of practice

The ICO published a revised Code of Practice in October, as an update from the previous version published in 2008, to reflect the developments in both technology and the practical use of closed-circuit television.

The updated Code explains how CCTV and other forms of camera surveillance can be used to process people’s information and provides advice on good practice for those involved in operating CCTV and other surveillance devices. It also complements the provisions in the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, which is a Code applicable to police forces, local authorities and police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.

Briefly, the Code considers:

The appropriateness of using CCTV systems

Given the ultimately intrusive nature of CCTV, the Code considers when using CCTV may not be justified and highlights alternatives which may be more appropriate for achieving desired results. For example, if CCTV is used to monitor a car park as a theft-deterrent, the Code suggests simply using improved lighting as a theft deterrent instead, which would be less intrusive. The Code was published on the same day that the Information Commissioner issued a warning to operators that surveillance cameras must only be used as a "necessary and proportionate response to a real and pressing problem".

Most recently, enforcement notices have been served by the Information Commissioner on two public authorities regarding the excessive use of surveillance cameras, involving the use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition respectively. The use of such equipment in both cases was reduced following the actions.

The Code suggests conducting a privacy impact assessment to decide whether a surveillance system is the best means of addressing the desired outcome. It also notes that those already using CCTV systems should regularly evaluate its continued use.

Ensuring proper and effective administration of CCTV systems

As data from CCTV systems is personal information, it should be treated no differently from any other handling of personal data. It is important to establish who has control of the CCTV information, how it is used and to whom should it be disclosed.

Storing and viewing CCTV information

The Code highlights points to consider when storing information recorded from CCTV systems and the different considerations to take into account when deciding how long such information should be retained.

Disclosure of CCTV information

The Code deals with handling requests for disclosure of CCTV information, including handling subject access requests. It also deals with responding to requests made to public bodies under the Freedom of Information Act.

Other surveillance technologies

Some of the more recently developed surveillance technologies are considered, such as automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and body worn video (BWV) and the Code looks at the issues arising with their use.

Informing people of use of CCTV

The Code provides guidance on letting people know when they are in an area where a surveillance system is in operation and what information should be communicated.

A full copy of the Code can be accessed here.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at November 2014. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases; we cannot be held responsible for any action (or decision not to take action) made in reliance upon the content of this publication.

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