Recent fines remind bosses not to fall foul of data protection law
It’s only £35 per year, but businesses are still failing to register their CCTV systems with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and risking a hefty fine.
According to a nationwide CCTV installation and servicing company, there’s no excuse for this omission, which could leave companies hundreds of pounds out of pocket and with a stain on their reputation from the negative publicity.
Yorkshire-based CCTV.co.uk says that it’s vital that businesses stick to the letter of the law with their camera systems, not only for their protection of their staff and property, but also for anybody who comes onto their premises, whether with good or foul intent.
“Some companies think they can skip their Data Protection Act responsibilities,” says CCTV.co.uk spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe, “But the sad fact is that their lack of compliance will almost certainly come to light the second they try to use camera footage for a prosecution.
“And that evidence could even be thrown out of court.”
The most recent case is a prosecution brought by the ICO against a Coventry-based business which was using a non-registered CCTV system
The case was only brought to court after the owner repeatedly ignored reminder letters to register their premises.
The owner told magistrates that she thought the ICO’s reminder letters were ‘spam’.
Local magistrates fined the owner of the company over £650, including court costs.
CCTV: Responsibility through technology
“When your system is ‘evidence-ready’ with well-serviced cameras in the right locations providing date-stamped footage, it’s almost impossible for a suspect to evade identification,” he says.
Legally-produced camera footage has been responsible for thousands of convictions and millions of pounds of saving to British businesses, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that camera systems have literally saved both jobs and lives. “But they have to be used responsibly,” says Ratcliffe.
It’s when companies evade their legal responsibilities that they could find themselves in trouble, and even then the ICO does its best to avoid court, preferring to advise companies as a first resort.
“It’s all very simple,” says Ratcliffe, “If you record images of people as part of your business activities, then you must register.
“And there’s no defence in claiming ignorance of the law – we advise all our commercial clients to get their registration in order before they switch on their cameras,” he says.
What are your obligations?
Business owners need to ensure that:
They have registered with the ICO (https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/register/)
Recordings are not kept longer than necessary
Use of recorded data does not breach people’s rights
Data is kept securely and it not passed to foreign countries
ICO can impose penalties up to £500,000 for the most severe breaches of the regulations.
What if I’ve got a domestic CCTV system?
Most domestic CCTV systems do not fall under the Data Protection Act.
However, if your recordings include people outside of your property (such as a road, path, or even a neighbour’s property), then you may have to register.
Use the Self Assesment tool to find out (https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/register/self-assessment/)
Privacy is everybody’s business
CCTV.co.uk’s Jonathan Ratcliffe says that in a society when we are recorded more than ever before, the law exists to ensure that your legal day-to-day comings-and-goings remain private.
And that means everybody using a camera system agreeing to the same set of standards.
“CCTV is a beneficial tool for any company, but you have to play by the rules,” Ratcliffe says.
“So, if your business collects data, make sure you’re onside. Don’t think you can dodge the law.”