On 20th May 2014, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launched a consultation on a revised Code of Practice on CCTV. This is intended to replace the current version, which was published in 2008, and aims to:
reflect the developments in existing technologies that have taken place in the last six years,
discuss the emergence of new surveillance technologies and the issues they present,
reflect further policy development in areas such as privacy impact assessments,
explain the impact that new case law has had on the area of surveillance systems
reflect the wider regulatory environment that exists when using surveillance systems.
Jonathan Bamford, Head of Strategic Liason at the ICO, states in his blog post that the revision covers “everything from automatic recognition of car number plates to flying drones” but emphasises that the underlying principles remain the same.
Since last Summer we have had two codes of practice on CCTV. The Surveillance Camera Code (PoFA code) came into force last year. Made pursuant to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) it governs governing the use of surveillance camera systems including CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). The ICO code applies to all data controllers (public and privacy sector) but the PoFA code currently only applies, in the main, to local authorities and policing authorities. As regards its legal effects:
“A failure on the part of any person to act in accordance with any provision of this code does not of itself make that person liable to criminal or civil proceedings. This code is, however, admissible in evidence in criminal or civil proceedings, and a court or tribunal may take into account a failure by a relevant authority to have regard to the code in determining a question in any such proceedings” (paragraph 1.16).
The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) has been appointed by the Home Secretary but has no enforcement or inspection powers unlike the ICO. He “should consider how best to ensure that relevant authorities are aware of their duty to have regard for the Code and how best to encourage its voluntary adoption by other operators of surveillance camera systems” (paragraph 5.3). The ICO says of its revised CCTV code:
“This code is consistent with the [Home Office] code and therefore following the guidance contained in this document will also help you comply with many of the principles in that code”.
So why have two codes then? (Answers on a postcard or in the comment field below.)
CCTV is a hot topic. Following complaints by Big Brother Watch, the ICO has taken enforcement action involving both number plate recognition and cameras recording people’s conversations in taxis. Big Brother Watch has welcomed the latest ICO consultation but has expressed concerns:
“We also remain concerned that, 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 ICO rather than the SCC, 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 consultation runs until 1st July 2014.