A competent CCTV solution is a must for any business. Getting a CCTV system isn’t difficult these days. They are available everywhere and very affordable. The manufacturers even provide professional installation facilities. However, there are some laws regarding the usage of CCTV for your business premises that many people are unaware of.
There are three different acts to consider when setting up CCTV for your business. These make up the laws regarding commercial CCTV usage in the UK. The surveillance camera code of practice obliges CCTV owners to follow proper guidelines. The data protection act protects public information and the freedom of information act works on behalf of anyone that’s being recorded.
Before installing CCTV in your business, you must know about these laws to prevent any legal trouble. In this article, I will describe what you need to know about these laws. I will also explain why these laws were introduced in the first place and what you might face for violating them. So, I encourage you to stick with me till the end for a clearer idea of CCTV cameras.
Why are there laws regarding CCTV usage?
The main purpose of using CCTV is to keep an eye on your property round the clock and recover evidence in case of any criminal activities.
Every business, regardless of the extent, is prone to theft and robbery. A CCTV system acts as a surveillance media and records footage for later investigation.
It also acts as a crime deterrent. However, a CCTV system can also be used for mischievous purposes. Wrongful usage can harm civilians. It can also get the CCTV owner in trouble. Here, we will discuss some reasons why the authorities have imposed laws regarding the usage of CCTV:
Prevent unlawful recording
A CCTV system records footage 24/7. If someone wants to spy on someone, maybe your neighbour or someone who passes by your house every day, you just need to set up a CCTV system. It won’t give off any malicious vibe and give away your intention, while you observe their every move.
This is unlawful, but the victim can’t prosecute the stalker because he can simply say that the CCTV system is for protecting his property. Many people complain of being unlawfully recorded. To prevent this sort of illicit act, CCTV laws were introduced. The laws compel CCTV owners to follow some guidelines when installing CCTV on their property.
Standard CC cameras can see up to 40 feet. Some specialized cameras can capture footage beyond that. You cannot do anything to limit the view. Anything comes within 40 feet; the camera captures automatically. So even if you intend to capture footage within the perimeter of your property, a CC camera can record footage that you won’t need outside the boundary.
The general public often sees it as a breach of privacy. If someone is passing by your property wall, you don’t have the right to record his movement. So, camera placement is very important. You have to place your cameras in such a way so that they cover your entire property without breaching the privacy of anyone outside.
There are strict rules about camera placement and to prevent the breach of privacy of passersby.
Lawful exchange and protection of data
If your CCTV system records any illicit activities within your property, there are ways bound by the law for later proceedings. Many owners might think of taking advantage of the intruder by using the footage like blackmailing or something else.
Or anyone can publish the footage online to defame the intruder. What we are trying to say is that CCTV footage can be used in unlawful ways by the owners. The laws regarding CCTV prevent any of this from happening.
There are CC cameras that are extremely difficult to spot. It can capture footage without anyone even knowing. That is a good thing to repel potential intruders, but not so much for anyone within the property. The camera can record awkward moments as the person doesn’t know a camera is watching him.
CCTV owners often seem reluctant to let people know that they are being watched. CCTV laws force you to put up signs or any sort of indication about the presence of a CCTV system.
Commercial CCTV laws you need to know
There isn’t any single law by the UK government that mandates every guideline of commercial CCTV usage. There are separate laws for different purposes. All these laws combined make the legal framework of commercial CCTV law.
The main three statutes that make the bulwark of commercial CCTV usage guidelines are the surveillance camera code of practice 2012, the data protection act, and the freedom of information act 2012. Each of these laws safeguards different parties concerned with a CCTV system. I will discuss each of them briefly below:
Surveillance camera code of practice
Although the surveillance camera code of practice was introduced under the protection of freedom act 2012, I am discussing it in a different section because it has a great impact on CCTV usage guidelines.
This law is to ensure that usage of CCTV in public places is regulated and they are being used purposefully. This law has 12 principles that dictate how a property owner should handle the CCTV system and information gathered by it. If you are thinking of installing a CCTV system on your property, you must know the following 12 principles:
- The usage of CCTV systems should only be for a specific need.
- The owner must take into consideration how a CCTV system might hamper other individuals’ privacy and review it periodically.
- The property owner has to be as transparent as possible about the CCTV system and its information.
- The owner must take responsibility for the usage of any footage captured by his CCTV system.
- The owner must maintain a clear rule and policy about the usage of CCTV in his property and communicate with anyone who has to comply with it.
- No information should be stored for more than the required period and must be destroyed once they serve their purpose.
- The owner should pose a restriction on the access of CCTV data and should clearly state who can have access to these data.
- The operator should attain and maintain operational standards relevant to the system.
- The owner must protect the CCTV footage and other information to prevent unauthorized usage.
- There should be an effective review system to ensure legal procedures are being followed and regular reports should be published.
- Every CCTV system should be used effectively to support the law and public safety.
- All the information regarding the CCTV system should be up-to-date.
You must follow all 12 of these guidelines if you want to install a CCTV system in your business.
Data protection act
The UK government published the Data protection act 2018 to control how personal information gathered by authorities and businesses is used.
This law is the implementation of the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It states clear and strict rules called ‘data protection principles.’ Everyone using personal data must follow these rules.
As an owner of a CCTV system in your commercial property, you should:
- Be transparent about the information and use it fairly and lawfully.
- Use the information for a specific and clear purpose.
- Adequately use the information and limit the usage to necessary.
- Provide accurate and up-to-date information where necessary, such as law enforcement agencies or court.
- Not keep the information any longer than necessary.
- Protectively handle the information and take necessary measures to prevent theft, loss, and unlawful handovers.
The data protection law also compels you to:
- Use a sign to let people know about CCTV surveillance.
- Provide footage and information within 1 month to anyone you’ve recorded
- Share information with authorities such as police or other law enforcement agencies.
- Keep the gathered information as long as you need it.
- Pay a data protection fee.
You also need to take additional steps to make sure you can properly follow all the data protection rules, if necessary. This may include but not limited to:
- Hire professional help to maintain data.
- Professionally install the system.
- Hire a CCTV operator.
- Consult a network and data specialist.
To sum it up, the data protection act prevents unauthorized use of public information and protects public data.
Freedom of information act
The freedom of information act ensures that the public can access private information held by the authorities at any time. To be more specific, it’s the right of those who you are filming with your CCTV system. This law works in two ways:
- Authorities must provide access to certain information about their activities.
- The general public can and should ask for information from the authorities if they feel necessary.
This act focuses on transparency on behalf of the CCTV system owner and obliges them to provide information without any confusion. It states that:
- Everyone has the right to access official information.
- The information should only be kept private where there is a good reason.
- Anyone who asks for their personal information, which your CCTV system recorded; they do not need to give you any reasons.
- Instead, you must provide reasons on why you may need to refuse their demand.
- You must treat all applicants
Public authorities include:
- Government departments
- National health services
- Law enforcement agencies
- local authorities
- state schools
- police forces
The bottom line is that anyone can demand to have access to any information about himself at any time. He won’t need to provide any valid reason. He can also ask to remove any sensitive footage that doesn’t bear any relevance.
The consequence of violating the laws
The authorities take these laws very seriously and they don’t take kindly to anyone who violates the law. If you fail to comply with the laws, the court may subject you to a fine and time in jail. The amount really depends on the seriousness of the crime.
The affected parties can take further action against you which might result in additional punishments.
Why do you need a CCTV system for your business?
With the increasing rate of crime these days, your business must need a competent CCTV system if you want protection round the clock.
Many people think that the only purpose of a CCTV system is to recover real-time footage after a crime has occurred. But that’s not true. There are many other reasons behind installing a CCTV system for your business such as:
A CC camera alone is capable of reducing crime and deterring criminals. It conveys a clear message that you are watching every move so don’t even try. Premeditated crimes occur very less on premises where there is CCTV surveillance. It also deters potential vandalism or minor misdemeanors.
Less operational cost
To appoint security guards, you need to spend a substantial amount of money. Also, you need to go through more complex procedures to hire securities for your business than installing a CCTV system. CCTV systems are cheap, easy, and widely available.
A CCTV system allows you to safely monitor your property from the safety of your house. You don’t need to go out of the door to face potential intruders and put yourself in harm’s way. You can monitor them from the inside or maybe even talk to them with a built-in PA system.
There are tons of other benefits of having a CCTV system for your business. I cannot describe all of them here. You can go to this link for more information about the benefits of a CCTV system for your business.
All these laws and legislations might seem tiresome to follow, but you have to keep in mind that these laws are here to protect the general people and that includes you. As a business owner willing to get a CCTV system, you should follow these rules to protect the general public and yourself.
I hope this write-up spreads more awareness on CCTV laws in the UK and helps you understand why they are important as well as the importance of installing CCTV cameras at your business premises.