Surveillance camera code of practice comes into force

CCTV camera The code applies to the CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems of public bodies

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A code of practice on the use of surveillance cameras by bodies such as local authorities and police forces has come into effect in England and Wales.

The Home Office introduced the code after concerns over the potential for the abuse or misuse of surveillance by the state in public places.

The code says the cameras must be used "in pursuit of a legitimate aim" and when it "meets a pressing need".

Campaign group Big Brother Watch said the code did not go far enough.

The code of practice also restricts access to and retention of data, and encourages private operators to apply the code as well as public bodies.

The code says: "Where used appropriately, these systems are valuable tools which contribute to public safety and security and in protecting both people and property.

"The purpose of the code will be to ensure that individuals and wider communities have confidence that surveillance cameras are deployed to protect and support them, rather than spy on them."

Start Quote

Ultimately the regulator needs real powers to enforce the rules and the code should apply to every CCTV camera, irrespective of who is operating it”

End Quote Nick Pickles Director, Big Brother Watch

The code of practice has been introduced under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which also established the post of surveillance camera commissioner.

The 12 point code of conduct says the use of a surveillance camera system must:

  1. always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need
  2. take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy
  3. have as much transparency as possible, including a published contact point for access to information and complaints
  4. have clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance activities including images and information collected, held and used
  5. have clear rules, policies and procedures in place and these must be communicated to all who need to comply with them
  6. have no more images and information stored than that which is strictly required
  7. restrict access to retained images and information with clear rules on who can gain access
  8. consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards
  9. be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use
  10. have effective review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with
  11. be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value, when used in pursuit of a legitimate aim
  12. be accurate and kept up to date when any information is used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes

The role of the commissioner, Andrew Rennison, is to encourage compliance, review how the code is working and recommend any changes.

The code applies to CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems.

Minister for Criminal Information Lord Taylor of Holbeach said CCTV and number plate recognition were "vital tools" but it was "crucial they focused on aiding the fight against crime and protecting the public".

The code and the commissioner's work "will better harness these technologies and help put an end to CCTV systems growing without proper oversight," he added.

'Surveillance state'

In 2010, West Midlands Police apologised after 200 so-called spy cameras were set up in largely Muslim areas of Birmingham.

The cameras, some of them hidden, were paid for with £3m of government funding intended for tackling terrorism.

Residents were angry about a lack of consultation and an independent report was highly critical. The police said none of the cameras had been switched on.

That scandal prompted the government to launch a consultation on the introduction of the code of practice and the commissioner.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said the the code was a step in the right direction but more needed to happen.

He said: "With only a small fraction of cameras covered and without any penalties for breaking the code there is much more that could be done to protect people's privacy from unjustified or excessive surveillance.

"Ultimately the regulator needs real powers to enforce the rules and the code should apply to every CCTV camera, irrespective of who is operating it.

Mr Pickles added: "We have already seen cases of cameras in school toilets, neighbours involving the police because of cameras on private property and concerns about new marketing technology tracking number plates, yet the code would not apply in any of these situations.

"As CCTV technology improves and issues like facial recognition analysis come to the fore it is essential that people are able to access meaningful redress where their privacy is infringed.

"The surveillance camera commissioner must be given the powers and the resources to take action, otherwise the public will rightly ask if the surveillance state continues to escape accountability."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    @85. Avonar
    "Companies can spend tens of thousands (at least) on a CCTTV system..."

    COMPANIES have them LOCALLY for security. Busybody, nosey, interfering, control-freak GOV'Ts have them EVERYWHERE for spying on EVERYONE.

    "the guys who decide these things aren't idiots."

    But they count on the ignorant masses being idiots.
    Thank you for your cooperation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    It would not be so bad if closed circuit television cameras were just that.

    I have heard they can be hacked into from the net.

    What use would a code of conduct be then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    The desirability of CCTV monitoring is a completely separate issue, but this code of practice appears to have been churned out by some useless jobsworth, and will achieve nothing.

    If the local council wants to spy on your rubbish bin, they will just define that as a "legitimate aim and pressing need", and tick a bunch of boxes for items 2 - 12.
    Instant compliance = absolutely useless!

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    94.Truth logic sustainability the final frontiers
    Numerous times I saw the camera panning round & looking into the flats
    Don't entirely see why you aimed this at me. I'm simply arguing that CCTV cameras do wok as preventatives, I didn't say anything about the people who use them. We sell to companies, very rarely to councils. Maybe there are people who misuse them like you said, I don't know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @83 Phil

    Reason though that we don't have more police on the streets is simple.

    Not enough money. CCTV is cheaper and pretty much does the same thing. There is a larger area to cover, more people and less police as the gov, keep cutting the police budget. Add to the paperwork the police have to fill in triplicate for anything they do, and it adds up to less on the streets at any given time

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I dont have a problem with CCTV, if you dont have anything to hide you wouldnt care if there in operation or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Given that cctv, monitoring of your 'phone calls and your emails by rogues are a part of life and cannot be stopped, I see no point in trying to stop "the good guys".

    Yes it's an intrusion, but the proliferation of cameras certainly serves to draw everyone's attention to the need for vigilance.

    Regard your own bedroom as one of the true private places for now, but fear for the worst!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    25 Minutes ago

    Years ago I used to live in a 4 storey block of flats.
    Theres a pub & local shops opposite.
    CCTV was installed on high poles, 1 directly outside our flats, they were supposed to monitor the pub for trouble & the shops.
    Numerous times I saw the camera panning round & looking into the flats, only reason for this was operators were abusing & perving on women in flats

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    83. Phil
    ...There was a time that police officers would walk around talking to local people,... active in preventing crime. ..

    OMG, there is a thought! Absolutely correct.

    Get the police out on the streets doing their job rather than sitting around much of the time in cars and canteens.

    For many of them the only exercise they get is frantic arm waving whenever there is a traffic incident.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    @59. ichabod
    "The War on the Motorist will continue unabated, we can be sure of that."

    As will the war on individual privacy and liberty, apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    If the government, truly, meant business, it would have given enforcement powers to the commissioner.

    What is the point of such a Code, if nobody can enforce breaches of it?

    Importantly, why doesn't the Code apply to ALL cameras?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    My god, the 'if you've got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' sheeple are posting in droves. The nanny state government must have activated their minions. Such apathy is very dangerous as thats what German citizens said when the nazi's took over their country. Didn't help the Jews though did it. Anyone who says that need to open their eyes and stop burying their heads in the sand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    When we can have CCTV in every part of the House of Commons along with microphones to record everything that are accessible to the general public after say 10 years for security, then I will believe all the arguments proposed.

    The police have no business equipping ANPR cameras anywhere - I do not want my movements tracked by anyone.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    CCTV doesn't prevent crime, it just records it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    All the people spouting 'If you're not doing anything wrong,what's the problem?'

    Yeah,bring them on.Let's have loads of 'em.

    But,let's have them also in,say,Accountants' offices,Company boardrooms,Quango meetings,etc,etc.

    Don't need 'em? Invading privacy?

    Well if you've nothing to hide....

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    80. Mysturji
    Yes they would. After all, you are.

    So...any backup to that. Companies can spend tens of thousands (at least) on a CCTTV system. You really think that so many countries globally could be swindled by a security product that doesn't provide security?

    Contrary to popular opinion, the guys who decide these things aren't idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    They witness crime so people can be prosecuted, there also there to deter some would be criminals once they clock a camera. They can’t see what I am thinking and they can’t look inside me wallet? I am not a criminal so I have nothing to fear, get a grip people, I would be more concerned with your data on line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    CCTV results in reactive policing rather than preventative police work. There was a time that police officers would walk around talking to local people, getting a feel for the area, etc. and they'd be active in preventing crime. CCTV may help catch criminals but I'd rather the money was spent on preventing crime in the first place and my feeling is that CCTV merely shifts it around.


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