Personal use of CCTV

New technology means that more homes now have cameras installed.  This could be to monitor the interior or exterior of a property, or connected to a doorbell enabling remote checks of the person at the door.  Individuals also use other devices, such as dash-cams, action cameras and drones.

In this section, the term ‘CCTV’ describes any camera or device that processes or records images of people.  As those images identify living individuals, they are “personal data” and the data protection legislation (“the DP law”) applies, in most circumstances.  However, the DP law does not apply to the use of CCTV by a natural person for their purely personal or household activities.

CCTV on domestic property

If you install CCTV on domestic property, you should avoid capturing neighbours’ properties as this intrudes upon their privacy.  Many CCTV systems come with audio recording facilities.  Audio recording is particularly privacy intrusive and should be disabled.

The DP law does NOT apply to CCTV that only covers:

as this will be for purely personal or household activities.

The DP law DOES apply to CCTV installed at a domestic property in all other circumstances.

If a camera or device captures images of people in any public space, such as a footpath, roadway, shared parking area or communal entrance, etc., this does not mean that you are breaching the DP law, but it does mean that you are a “controller”.

As a “controller”, you must comply with the DP law, including the data protection principles and individuals’ rights. 

“Controllers” are accountable for the processing of personal data and must:

“Controllers” must also register with the Commissioner, for which an annual fee is payable.

Individuals can complain to the Commissioner about the use of CCTV to record their activities (i.e. the processing of their personal data) and the Commissioner will  take action and may ask you to demonstrate how you comply with the DP law. 

Individuals may also seek compensation from a “controller” if they suffer any damage by the processing.  For example, the Scottish Court awarded damages of more than £17,000 in total for the "extreme stress" people suffered as a result of the "highly intrusive" use of CCTV systems by the owner of a neighbouring property.

CCTV on a domestic property that covers any public space is subject to the DP law and you should read the CCTV guidance for controllers to understand the law and all your obligations.

Private individuals should therefore carefully consider their use of surveillance equipment and, if installation is necessary, only use it in a responsible way that respects the privacy of others. 

Dash-cams, action cameras and drones

The use of these, or similar, devices is subject to the same considerations as CCTV installed on domestic property.  Recording your own activity, for example, mountain biking or horse riding, is likely to be for your own enjoyment and will be for your “purely personal or household activities”.  Other uses of the images or footage are unlikely to be for “purely personal or household activities”.

Police requests for recorded images

The police may actively seek public assistance and ask for relevant CCTV footage to investigate incidents.  You will not contravene the DP law by giving the police relevant footage or access to your CCTV in such circumstances.  However, you are not obliged to do so.