‘Can I take your picture please?’ and other myths – debunking the law on CCTV for commercial properties

Feb 23, 2022 | Commercial Security, Office Security

‘Can I take your picture please?’ and other myths – debunking the law on CCTV for commercial properties

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding CCTV, and we often find people are unsure about how and where you can use it in and around commercial properties. CCTV is there to protect your property from theft, malicious damage, and other problems. While there are some rules you must follow, using CCTV to protect your commercial property is not as onerous as many people think. 

The internet is great, but it is also full of misinformation. When it comes to CCTV, that information is sometimes half-truths and occasionally bewilderingly wrong. So, we thought we would set the record straight on a few of the more common or downright strange beliefs that we have encountered. 

These are some of the most common myths we hear:

1) I need to get permission from the police to install CCTV

MYTH – This is not the case at all. You need to meet the associated laws surrounding areas such as privacy and data processing legislation, but the police do not need to be informed that you have CCTV.
You don’t need permission, but you do need to stay within the law. If there is an incident, your CCTV may help the police by providing evidence that can be used to track the criminals.

2) I need to get express permission from people to record them; a sign is not enough.

MYTH – We have no idea where this idea came from, but it is a common misconception, and like most misinformation, it falls apart under scrutiny. If this was the case, you would need to give permission at every traffic camera or ATM you used because they all record your image.
You don’t need permission to record someone with CCTV when they are on your premises, but you must inform them that you are doing so. This is why you see the ‘CCTV in operation signs so much. However, it is not the only reason for these signs. The CCTV signs clearly tell anyone up to no good that they will be seen and recorded and therefore act as a deterrent.

3) If I have told people the cameras are there, I can record whatever I want wherever I want.

MYTH – There are two things to think about here, privacy laws and justified use. As a rule of thumb, your cameras should only record and temporarily keep the information they need. So, for example, you may want to record people entering and leaving a changing facility or meeting room area, but clearly, you cannot record in the changing area and in the second case, do you really need to record the actual meetings? Audio recording is probably the thing that causes the most confusion. In short, though, conversations are private, so you will struggle to justify recording one unless you have a very good reason. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has a very clear guide about areas to think about with CCTV.

If you have clearly informed people that you will be recording CCTV images, then, as long as you are not breaking privacy or data processing laws, you can record them, but that does not mean you have total freedom to invade their privacy.

4) CCTV doesn’t stop crime, so why bother with it.

MYTH – We can see how this misunderstanding came about, though. Just because 1 robbery happens, it doesn’t mean that 100s of others do not. CCTV is about reducing your exposure to a crime and helping identify criminals, and without CCTV, you are simply making it easy for the criminals by offering an unprotected target.

This is one of those myths that disintegrate in the light of logic. If you were a criminal, would you choose the property with the CCTV system or the one without?

5) There are so many laws and regulations about CCTV that I am more likely to be punished for having it than it being of any use to me.

MYTH – There are only three primary laws, and they have straightforward regulations you need to adhere to:

Wireless CCTV MonitoringSo once you have registered with the ICO and produced appropriate policies for these, you are usually compliant. That said, we always recommend that you take expert advice if you are in doubt. The law surrounding CCTV is relatively easy to follow, and the compliance rules are not difficult to adhere to. If your CCTV is installed by a professional provider, they will ensure you are technically compliant and advise on proper use. The ICO has a lot of helpful guidance on registering and many other areas mentioned in this article.

In the end, CCTV is a deterrent and a very effective one. It doesn’t make sense to introduce laws that unduly restrict its use. After all, the Government wants the crime rates to decrease, not to help criminals by preventing deterrents. If you follow the handful of rules and register properly, your CCTV system will carry on protecting you the same way it always has.

Contact us any time if you need any advice on installing a new, fully compliant CCTV system or upgrading your current one.