New CCTV Code of Practice comes into force

banksy-3Today a new Code of Practice on the use of CCTV comes into force, to sit alongside the new position of Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

The code is a step in the right direction towards bringing proper oversight to the millions of cameras that capture our movements every day. However, with only a small fraction of cameras covered and without any penalties for breaking the code, we hope that this is only the beginning of the process and that further steps will be taken in the future to protect people’s privacy from unjustified or excessive surveillance.

Given that the responsibility for legally enforcing the Data Protection Act with regard to CCTV (apart from private cameras, which remain exempt) will remain with the Information Commissioner, we are concerned that public confidence will not be helped if the process of making a complaint and action being taken is not straightforward. Equally, the situation of private cameras not being subject to regulation, with the only power available to the police to prosecute for harassment, is unsustainable as the number of people using them increases.

The code recognises that one important area to ensure public trust in surveillance is measuring the effectiveness of CCTV. This is an area we highlighted in our report the Price of Privacy, when we called on councils to publish statistics on crime levels where cameras were being used and how many prosecutions were secured. Too often CCTV has been used as a substitute for policing or as a lazy option, instead of a more thorough consideration of how the underlying causes can be addressed. We would much prefer to prevent crime than to have it take place and be caught on camera, or displaced a short distance out of sight.

However, we remain concerned that more needs to be done. We made these arguments in our response to the consultation on the code at every opportunity. The regulator needs real powers to enforce the rules and the code should apply to every CCTV camera, irrespective of who is operating it. We have already seen cases of cameras in school toilets, neighbours involving the police because of cameras on private property and concerns about new marketing technology tracking number plates, yet the code would not apply in any of these situations.

As CCTV technology improves and issues like facial recognition analysis come to the fore, it is essential that people are able to access meaningful redress where their privacy is infringed. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner must be given the powers and the resources to take action otherwise the public will rightly ask if the surveillance state continues to escape accountability.

We hope these issues will be addressed by the Commissioner and that there is a proper discussion about whether he does have adequate powers and resources to do his job, and whether people really are adhering to the code of practice voluntarily.


  1. anon
    12th August 2013

    There needs to be more done to protect the public from unnecessary intrusion from CCTV. Some stores record not only images but audio too and they are not supposed to do this but they do. When you raise it with them they say they have good reason for it – I choose not to shop in these stores. Also I no longer shop in a well known high street store since it has implemented a policy of using CCTV to monitor everyone going in and out of the toilets in all of their stores. Apparently this is the reaction to one incident in one store. This is over zealous – there is no evidence that says that using CCTV to monitor all people after one incident will prevent another incident. If this prevents any other crimes being committed then why do we still have crimes being committed despite all the CCTV?

    • Marvin
      2nd September 2013

      please would you name and shame the stores which illegally record audio so we can all avoid them.

  2. Links 12/8/2013: Netrunner 13.06, New Sabayon | Techrights
    12th August 2013

    […] New CCTV Code of Practice comes into force […]

  3. SurveillanceWorld
    12th August 2013

    What is always overlooked is the unseen crime of CCTV surveillance, whether public or private, preventing people from going about their normal, lawful lives because they find it offensive, intrusive and, intimidating. I’ve never hurt anyone or committed serious crimes so why should I be treated as if I were a criminal? I have been robbed of my freedom and I want it back!

    • anon
      13th August 2013

      Hear hear

    • Victor
      23rd August 2013

      Well said. The phoney argument that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about is completely bogus. If you do not know who is using the captured video data and for what purpose then you cannot always assume that it is being used in your interest and not misused against you.

      “And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.” – V for Vendetta

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    24th October 2013

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