This document supersedes the version of 14 October 2009
The scope of this Policy Statement is Visual Surveillance, such as that conducted using Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV).
The term is used here to encompass the capture and/or projection of images and video, whether or not with audio, whether or not the images and/or audio are recorded, whether or not they are subsequently disclosed and/or published, and whether the image-resolution is high- or low-quality.
The focus is on visual surveillance conducted in a systematic manner, as is generally the case with its use by organisations. The scope is not intended to encompass casual use of cameras by individuals, which gives rise to privacy concerns that are of a different nature and gravity from institutionalised uses.
The focus is on data that represents images and any associated sound. Structured and textual data deriving from such images, including meta-data describing them, are also a source of considerable privacy concern, and must be subject to data protection provisions.
The Principles enunciated below also have broader application, to surveillance conducted using any part of the electromagnetic spectrum including that outside the human-visible range, such as infra-red, ultra-violet and X-rays.
Visual surveillance may have potential in particular circumstances to protect important human values. On the other hand, visual surveillance is highly privacy-intrusive. It has a chilling effect on human behaviour generally.
Moreover, unless it is well-designed and well-managed, visual surveillance may have little or no chilling effect on criminal or anti-social behaviour. Studies have created serious doubts about the effectiveness of visual surveillance as a technique for crime prevention, for crime detection, for criminal investigation and for criminal prosecution.
Wherever visual surveillance is applied, all of the following conditions must be fulfilled.
Because visual surveillance is highly privacy-invasive, a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) must be conducted before a scheme is commenced or significantly changed. A PIA involves publication of a clear explanation, demonstrating that it is expected on reasonable grounds to have positive benefits sufficient to justify its intrusiveness, followed by public consultation.
The explanation must be based on evidence and systemic reasoning, and not merely rely on assertions.
The justification must make clear what less privacy-invasive alternatives have been considered, and why they are inadequate.
The benefits identified in the justification for using visual surveillance must outweigh the negative impacts on privacy.
Visual surveillance must be no more intensive (e.g. the number of cameras), and no more extensive (e.g. across a large area) than the analysis justifies.
The conduct of visual surveillance in any open space (whether it is public or is commonly used by members of the public) must be disclosed to the public, and clearly notified to individuals who enter that space. This applies to both the fact that visual surveillance is undertaken and the nature and extent of the surveillance. Any exceptions to this must be treated as covert surveillance (see below).
Before visual surveillance is conducted in any space in which a reasonable expectation of privacy exists (including private premises, and toilets and change-rooms in open facilities), it must be the subject of formal, specific and bounded legal authority, exercised by a judicial institution that makes its judgements in a manner demonstrably independently of the organisation that seeks to conduct the surveillance. It must also be disclosed to the public, and clearly notified to individuals who enter that space. This applies to both the fact that visual surveillance is undertaken and the nature and extent of visual surveillance. Any exceptions to this must be treated as covert surveillance (see below).
Before covert visual surveillance is undertaken, it must be the subject of formal, specific and bounded legal authority, exercised by a judicial institution that makes its judgements in a manner demonstrably independently of the organisation that seeks to conduct the surveillance.
Where a recording is made, and the images and/or video are such as to identify any individual, the data must be treated as personal data, and must be subject to data protection laws, including access by the data subject, complaint handling, and redress.
Access to images and video, both live and recorded, must be tightly controlled.
Any security breaches must be acted upon promptly and effectively.
The purposes must be clearly defined for which the images and video, both live and recorded, may be used by the organisation that collects it.
Use for any other purpose must be precluded, and must be subject to sanctions and enforcement.
The material may of course be used under legal authority.
The purposes must be clearly defined for which the images and video, both live and recorded, may be disclosed to other parties.
Disclosure for any other purpose must be precluded, and must be subject to sanctions and enforcement.
This provision applies to all parties, including law enforcement and national security agencies.
The material may of course be disclosed under legal authority, such as a search warrant.
Any publication of material must be justified, and must be the minimum necessary to achieve the aim. This applies with particular force to the publication of images of 'innocent bystanders' and of witnesses to an event.
Wherever possible, images of 'innocent bystanders' and of witnesses must be anonymised. The same principle applies to all other forms of information that may identify an individual, such as images showing number plates.
Any recordings that are made as a result of visual surveillance must be retained only for a brief period.
A defined program must be in place to ensure destruction of recordings.
Failure to destroy recordings in compliance with the program must be subject to sanctions and enforcement.
The material may of course be retained where a legal requirement exists to do so. However, the terms of the legal authority must be subject to Principles 1 and 2 (Justification and Proportionality).
All aspects of a visual surveillance program must be reviewed, both periodically and as circumstances warrant, in order to establish whether these Principles are being complied with, and a review report prepared.
Where the review identifies problems, corrective action must be taken.
To ensure that this Principle is honoured, authority for visual surveillance must be subject to a sunset clause.
The sunset clause must include the requirement that a comprehensive review report be input to the re-authorisation process.
Review reports must be made publicly available, or at least sufficient information from them must be made publicly available, in order to enable informed public debate.
A visual surveillance scheme and associated infrastructure must be de-commissioned and removed where it has demonstrably not fulfilled its objectives, where resources necessary to enable its objectives to be fulfilled are not available, or where an alternative with superior effectiveness and/or a superior privacy trade-off is available.
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