Back in August 2016, Channel 4 broadcast one-off drama The Watchman starring Stephen Graham as the main protagonist. Working as a CCTV nightshift operator, his character uses a two-way communication system to intervene with a gang of local drug dealers with disastrous consequences.
Billed as a tale of ‘surveillance gone wrong’, the drama is a thought-provoking piece about how we’re possibly moving closer towards the Orwellian dystopia of state control faster than we think.
For UK citizens worried about how CCTV can be misused to intrude on our personal lives, heightened by the recent ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ bill, The Watchman raises issues over the ethics of government surveillance.
In light of this, here are some aspects of security monitoring for both domestic and commercial CCTV owners to consider.
Personal CCTV Use
For domestic CCTV users, you have legal responsibilities when installing cameras on your property.
If the system is capturing footage beyond your property, it will no longer be excused from the Data Protection Act (DPA) under the domestic purposes exemption. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re breaking the law but obtaining permission from the council or your neighbour is advised.
Using CCTV for purposes other than security measures, i.e. to pry on a neighbour, is a breach of the Human Rights Act. If any issue can’t be resolved amicably, then legal proceedings may be made against your name.
Commercial CCTV Use
CCTV regulations for commercial organisations are covered by the Data Protection Act 1998. You must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), as well as displaying warning signs in clear view.
Not surprisingly, you must provide the government or police with recorded images when asked, whilst civilians can also obtain recordings of themselves which you must present within 40 days.
If you are storing CCTV data on-site, a security breach can see footage fall into the wrong hands. There must be correct procedures in place to prevent this. Investing in off-site, cloud-based storage can provide a fantastic alternative.
Preventing Misuse of CCTV
As The Watchman showed when broadcast on Channel 4, CCTV can be abused in various ways. This is becoming even more prevalent in the modern era with such features as facial recognition, automatic number plate recognition and two-way communication becoming more accessible.
As a CCTV owner, you should understand your legal responsibilities to protect people’s privacy and ensure data is deleted routinely. There’s also laws around how long you can store camera footage, which is usually around 30 days for private companies.
The usefulness of CCTV is diminished if it is positioned inadequately. There’s no point investing in a camera if it doesn’t deter crime or pick up suspect behaviour. Likewise, cameras that produce shoddy, blurred imagery will also waste your investment.
This is where a security supplier will help out, providing expert advice during the buying and installation phase. As well as providing a professional fitting, you’ll have the best CCTV system for your property and stay on the right side of the law going forward.