Tuesday, 26 February 2013

CCTV and the ICO

The plans of the Canal and River Trust to install CCTV into all of their moorings was revealed by Jenny Whitehall the national moorings manager at a recent meeting in South Yorkshire. Quotes have already been sought for initial CCTV installations. At a time of national austerity how can CaRT justify spending a huge amount of money on CCTV.  It escapes me why CaRT are proceeding with this course of action. Whilst at the same time there are significant areas where infrastructure continues to slowly and inexorably fall apart.

I'm even more sceptical that it is such a good idea, especially with the latest rulings from First Tier Tribunal and the Information Commissioner’s Office being made public. The use of indiscriminate surveillance TV took a battering when Southampton Council’s attempt to justify it’s policy of requiring taxis to record audio and video of every journey was pooh poohed. It also took another significant blow when the "First Tier Tribunal" also ruled against it. The case stems from a complaint made by Big Brother Watch and others to the Information Commissioner’s Office which led to Oxford council abandoning it’s policy and Southampton being given an "enforcement notice" Which is essentially a prosecution for breaching the Data Protection Act.
The First Tier Tribunal is part of the administrative justice system of the United Kingdom. It was created in 2008 as part of a programme, set out in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act. Intended to rationalise the tribunal system and has since taken on the functions of twenty previously existing tribunals. It is administered by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service.

As reported by the barrister’s chambers, who acted for the Information Commissioner’s Office in the case, “what the Council disputed was (1) the conclusion that the policy involved the processing of “sensitive personal data” as well as personal data; and (2) the ICO’s finding that the recording and retention of recorded data was a disproportionate interference with privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention.

On both points, the tribunal ruled against the council, saying the policy was disproportionate and accepting the significant risk of “function creep”. With lawyers highlighting that this case sets an important precedent for the use of surveillance and data protection law. It's hoped that councils and others will not implement policies that blatantly trample on the privacy of people without any kind of justification. The only decision Southampton Council can now make is to abandon this ludicrous policy immediately.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike,

    You are slightly wrong with your interpretation of the Southampton decision. It was the voice recording part of the surveillance that fell foul of article 8.

    "The council was appealing an enforcement notice by the Information Commissioner who said that while the visual recording was lawful, the audio recording contravened data protection and privacy laws".(http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10246443.Victory_for_cabbies_over_spycams_in_taxis/)

    This is because the cameras can not be switched off and many of the taxi drivers in Southampton use their cars as a family car as well as a business (I know this because I used to be a taxi driver in Southampton).

    I can understand drivers not wanting the camera on when they are using the car with their family, but as an ex taxi driver (assaulted once and about 6 'runners' during the eight years I drove a taxi) I would be all in favour of having CCTV in my cab. It is not as you say "..blatantly trample[ing] on the privacy of people without any kind of justification."

    Customers are aware of the CCTV and can refuse to use the cab if they object to it. I'm also aware that evidence from the cameras has helped in the successful prosecution of criminals. Again from the above article
    "It [the Council] cited examples of how the recordings had been used by Hampshire police to help with inquiries 193 times, including offences of sexual assault, racially aggravated abuse and theft.

    Sound recordings taken from a cab were even used as evidence against Arben Lleshi, who was convicted earlier this week of the murder of Agim Hoxha."



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