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CCTV and The Data Protection Act 1998
An exclusive report by Doktor Jon

Dateline September 20th 2004 - London, England.

Following a recent court ruling, there have been some significant changes in the way we view the Data Protection Act 1998, particularly in relation to the now widespread use of Closed Circuit Television in UK society.

It would now appear that all CCTV installations in the home, are in effect exempt from the requirement to comply with this legislation. A spokesman for the Office of the Information Commissioner confirmed "We take the view that a householder installing CCTV to protect their property from crime would be exempt from the notification provisions and compliance with the DP Principles."

In situations where a number of homeowners wish to set up their own local CCTV scheme, it would seem that this too may also be outside the scope of the Act. If as part of a community based CCTV project, a number of security cameras are left to record unattended, and without anyone monitoring the pictures, then there is no need to register the system.

"A little mutual support between neighbours to keep an eye on each others property when they are out ... would still be exempt as this is still for household affairs", the spokesman said.

Somewhat worryingly, the same exclusions can also be relied upon by a growing number of anti social neighbours. Increasingly there are reports of 'Neighbours from Hell' using CCTV cameras to spy on their victims.

Unfortunately, a clause in the Act which specifically addresses 'The right to prevent processing which is likely to cause damage or distress', simply doesn't apply in situations where the use of video surveillance equipment, falls outside this legislation.

For many small businesses that were previously obliged to notify and comply with DPA legal requirements, the Court of Appeal ruling on the case of Durant v Financial Services Authority, has provided some welcome interpretation. It is no longer simply about registering all commercial CCTV systems, but rather only those that specifically use actively monitored cameras, to identify an individual and scrutinise their activity.

For system operators, the legal implications are now much clearer; "The type of the kit is irrelevant; it is what you do with it that matters".


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