back to article Almost all CCTV systems are illegal, says expert

As many as 95 per cent of CCTV systems in the UK are operating illegally, according to a CCTV expert. The revelation comes as new legislation is about to take effect in Scotland which could render even more systems illegal. Companies whose premises have CCTV systems in operation must alert the Information Commissioner that …


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  1. Richard

    New defence?

    If so many of these cameras are illegal one has to wonder whether the defence teams of suspects caught primarily on the basis of CCTV footage will be attempting to get the images thrown out as evidence on the basis that they were obtained illegally.

    It would be interesting to see the reaction of the press should someone get off because of this.

  2. Aram

    All of your CCTV are belong to us

    A few people on shifts viewing multiple cameras costs a fraction of the amount of having many more people actually patrolling those areas under surveillance. It seems that any evidence regarding the efficacy of the different approaches is irrelevant - budgets are squeezed and the way of the camera is the only way.

    Yep, keep the cameras coming; store logs of phone calls for a year; press ahead with biometric info everywhere on insecure systems and put your DNA on a database indefinitely. Is the national identity card plan still on the table? Why, exactly, do people still think we have a problem with IMmigration?

    This great country is being ground down by people who won't play by the rules, so we all have to suffer with these ridiculous measures.



  3. Hywel Thomas


    My only experience of CCTV was a a train station. My bike was nicked from a locker at the station, which had a camera trained on it. Nobody even bothered to check the tapes.

    On the one hand, I can see why. It was only £500, and nobody was hurt. I'd rather other things got the priority. On the other hand, I was quite surprised because station property was damaged, and if they're not going to use it, what's the point of the CCTV in the first place ?

  4. Lloyd

    The Office of the Information Commissioner

    That would be the department I wrote to complaining about being spammed by a UK company, whom I had unsubscribed from, emailed customer services, written to and eventually reported to no avail. I did get a letter back from the OIC telling me that they had no powers to prosecute spammers and that they had written a letter to this company telling them not to do it. I'm still recieving the emails, which all goes to prove that the OIC is and absolute waste of time and money.

  5. Nano nano


    I thought only politicians used the wordy / redundant cliche "way, shape or form" ... why would anyone else ?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who's the dummy?

    <font color=green>"Nobody even bothered to check the tapes."</font>

    Not all these cameras are real. Often, they were put up in the days when real cameras were expensive, and radio transmission wasn't a legal possibility, so a dummy was the only solution.

    If I were a criminal, there's at least one car park where I could say for certain these are only dummies. How do I know? Well, if they were real cameras and if somebody was actually watching them, somebody would have to trim the trees that have been allowed to grow in front of them!

    These days, there's no excuse for using only dummy cameras. Though cameras are not quite ten a penny they're pretty cheap and they don't need coax cable laid any more. So if you can get power from a streetlamp, you can have a real camera.

    But it all falls down if a crime occurs, a camera seems likely to have caught the evidence, but there is no law requiring the owner to preserve the evidence and hand it over to investigators.

    It seems to me there should be a new crime of aiding and abetting if the operator refuses to co-operate with a reasonable request to preserve tapes and/or hand over copies, or if the operator is prohibited from handing over the information because of some data protection requirement that they had failed to comply with.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    oh dear, another loss for common sense.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know of one situation

    of a person being attacked in the town centre but when it came to checking CCTV footage it turned out none of the cameras were in operation because the system was too expensive to run.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of Course..

    ... it doesn't apply to the fuzz, or any contractor working for el govermento, as they're already above the law. :)

  10. umacf24

    Home Systems?

    I don't think the DP Act exemptions for personal use extend to CCTV. So are all those webcams, DiY CCTV from Maplin, etc. even OK to watch your own home and garden?

  11. Mickey Porkpies


    but damned if I can recognise my own mother. Most cameras are high res but scrimping on storage media means the recording is so poor even if you catch the crime the image quality is useless other than ruling out the Yeti.

    Good quality CCTV well managed works, unfortunately most examples are are neither good or managed.

    oh and DP Act does say if it is not usable it is not necessary and therefore in breach of the Act. !parp!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home systems...

    ...are exempt from the DPA, provided they are for the purposes of protecting your property and *AREN'T ACTIVELY MONiTORED*. The caps bit is the important part - eg its quite OK to record the front of your property AND the approach (pavement/road) to the property provided you don't have someone constantly monitoring that video. I'm sure someone can find the link (I can't be bothered) but that is (or certainly was) written guidance from the Information Commissioner.

    Common sense really and, as has been pointed out in a previous comment, the IC is a waste of space anyway as they don't have enough funding/teeth to do much.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Make them all webcams and we'll store the data. (And put the particularly juicy bits on YouTube).

    In fact I think we should have legislation that *requires* all CCTVs to also be publicly accessible webcams.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re The Office of the Information Commissioner

    I'm at a loss to understand why the OIC thinks it has no anti-spam powers in view of the The Privacy and Electronic Communication regulations 2003.

    I get a load of UK spam, which I can prove is unsolicited as the variant of my email used was harvested a few years ago from some forged newsgroup postings.

    I complained to one sender this afternoon, and included a copy of their email. Guess what? Their spam filter identified their own emai as spam and bounced it.

  15. SPiT

    DPA rules

    "In fact I think we should have legislation that *requires* all CCTVs to also be publicly accessible webcams." and that definitely would make them illegal.

    The DPA rules for security CCTV are quite simple and pretty much come down to the following.

    1) The cameras are being operated by the person or business whose security is in question

    2) The recordings will be used only for the investigation of an offense.

    3) Nobody routinely views the recording.

    Really (3) is just part of (2) and it is an important part of the restrictions that the camera recordings are only checked for the purposes of verifying that it works and when there are reasonable grounds to believe an offense has been committed and then only as an official part of the investigation.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "I did get a letter back from the OIC telling me that they had no powers to prosecute spammers and that they had written a letter to this company telling them not to do it"

    Meh. Just forward the email straigt to them.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Hywel Thomas

    I had exactly the same thing, my bike was nicked from Reading Stn, the underground car park, where the British Transport Police park their cars. When I asked about the CCTV, I was asked in return "you don't expect me to go through a days worth of tape do you?". "err, yes" was my response, I also think that the Rozzer in question didn't realise that you don't have to look at all the tape, you can forward it on until the point where the bike is gone, then back a bit!

  18. Dave Bell

    It doesn't help hit the targets

    With all and sundry having to meet government targets opf one sort or another, anything which doesn't let them easily mark another tickybox is, if possible, ignored.

    I'm aware of a series of poison pen letters locally, hand delivered. A CCTV camera would let it be cleared up in a few days. Technically, it wouldn't be difficult to set up a webcam with motion-detection software--no need to record every second of the day--but I suspect the lawyers would tell us that would be no good as evidence.

    Having a petty criminal ask for hundreds of offences to be "taken into consideration" has been discredited, with reason, but the police don't seem to be catching them in the first place. Why should they: it only lets them tick off one minor crime.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The SIA?

    A big problem for contractors hiring CCTV operators / guards is that the bloody SIA can take months to process license applications.

    They also charge £250 for a card that pretty much proves you've undergone a standard CRB check (something that cost's about £40, is recognised by everyone and takes a couple of weeks).

    Hiring my guards (SIA compliant training + some real training + wages paid while they're in these classes) currently costs me over £2500, excluding license. That's just to guard private property; public area surveillance requires more junk training and another license.

    Now, how the hell can I hire someone, pay for SIA training and ask them to wait ages until the SIA checks to come through, before even starting the rest of the training or even showing them where they’ll work? What if they find another job, fail to clear, or change their mind and walk off the job after one night? A few cases like that in a year and I'd be finished.

    This was not for the public (and does very little for them), this was pushed for by the big security companies to remove the smaller operators. The fact that 'in-house' security staff don't need checks is quite telling, as they usually work on sites that contract security can't poach anyway.

    I've been working in the industry for fourteen years, have a great reputation and make the big providers look like shit. We were still nervous every time the police turned up as we awaited the checks (six months) when they first started, regardless of our CRB's, training and experience.

    Compared to what's available, the SIA required training is a waste of time and money aimed at the lowest possible denominator, anything else would have killed half the industry, something the police could not have stood for. The teachers will not let you fail, and in many cases tell you what will be asked in the exam. One guy in my class couldn't read so they just told him which boxes to tick for a pass.

    I've had retired armed forces and prison service guys pack in rather than sit in a class full of monkeys.

    Pulling an incompetent watchdog authority out of your arse and making an entire industry send you money; why didn't I think of that?

  20. Ben W

    the way I see it........

    is the only people worried about privacy, are people that have something to hide A.K.A wrong do'ers and f*#kwits.

    I'm also pretty sure that 90% of legislation and regulations are only written because some fat pompus idiot has to justify his over paid pointless existance to his superiors and salary cheque signers.

    what a load of big fat hairy ones!!!

  21. Steve Roper

    @Ben W

    So, Ben, if you aren't concerned about privacy, how about you post your home address, phone number, bank account details and credit card information here? Just to verify your identity of course; I'm sure no honest Reg reader would do anything with your info that you wouldn't want done. After all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, right?

    Oh, you mean it's only OK if just the police and politicians have that info? Well, maybe you should post it to them instead; I'm sure every politician ever voted in, and every police officer ever recruited, is a pure-hearted, trustworthy and honest member of society, and none of them have ever succumbed to temptation or corruption. After all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, right?

  22. Marco

    Re: the way I see it........

    "is the only people worried about privacy, are people that have something to hide A.K.A wrong do'ers and f*#kwits."

    You better hope they don't one day decide -you- could have something to hide.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    errr what??

    Professional security companies offering services to other companies will need to be licensed to "remove the criminal element..." while companies who directly employ security staff won't need a license because "companies which directly employ security workers are likely to conduct the kind of thorough background checks..."

    What planet is this muppet Pattinson from? Sheeesh!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So some bloke who's selling CCTV advice...

    ...says that 95% of organisations need CCTV advice. Hhmmm. No conflict of interest there then.

  25. Dan

    Never a truer word said

    "This great country is being ground down by people who won't play by the rules, so we all have to suffer with these ridiculous measures."

    Amen to that brother.

  26. Chris

    @Ben W

    Would you mind where that CCTV camera is pointing, Ben W? It's been known for them to be trained on people's bedroom windows by bored operatives.

    But then, you've got nothing to hide, right?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is it the case that illegally obtained video footage cannot be used as evidence in an English court? Googling around, I can't find an authoritative statement either way.

    In general, there's no rational reason why a court should refuse to use illegally obtained evidence, provided the evidence is reliable. Obviously the same evidence would also be used in a separate case against the people who illegally obtained it, which means that people might be unwilling to come forward with illegally obtained evidence in the first place.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I did once go to work at a security firm to find one of our cameras had been trained on a bedroom window overnight. There were multiple people with access to it so it wasn't like we could identify who did it.

    So the issue seems to be that if you have nothing to hide then you don't know who is watching. It might be someone like me. It might be someone watching people coming and going from your house to work out the best time to call on your wife home alone. It might be someone working out the best time to break into your empty house. Make no mistake, most monitored CCTV is watched by minimum wage plebs and/or students. That stereo they just saw you unloading into your house is worth more than they make in a month.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doc Brown was right......

    To quote Doc Brown in BTTF2: "The justice system works quicker now that they've abolished all lawyers". Bring it on.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recommendations anyone?

    OK a little off topic so flame on but:

    I am sick of twats smashing my car windows, bending doors back etc trying to break in (useless incompetents have ruined 1 car and are well onto a second, having never actually gained entry)

    Before you all start, the only place I can park is directly outside my house at the back and I don’t have the space or the cash for a garage

    Anyone got any recommendations for a good system that just records say a 24hr loop?

    I went to B&Q and they only have systems for active monitoring (funny, having noted what the rules are from this thread and that they specifically don't like active monitoring)

    Yeah I know we are turning into a CCTV culture etc etc, but this is an unashamed case if DIMBY (Definitely In My Back Yard)

  31. Mike Holden

    @Recommendations anyone?

    If you have a computer available, the possibilities are endless. Pretty much any webcam comes with monitoring/motion detection software. It's simply a case of how much you are prepared to pay for quality of image, and many have network connectivity or even wifi (so long as you don't mind your brain getting fried), so location doesn't need to be physically next to the computer.

  32. Chris Goodchild Silver badge

    @ recommendations anyone

    You might like to try something an enterprising farmer once used on his LandRover. An electric fence unit connected to the body work, they are not expensive and are quite amusing when some oik attempts to tamper with your car. Unfortunately they are not lethal, just give a sharp shock also unfortunately the old bill are not too keen on such things as legally it is considered `Setting a trap´

  33. Danny Thompson

    Talk about play right into their hands

    "This great country is being ground down by people who won't play by the rules, so we all have to suffer with these ridiculous measures."

    That is exactly the attitude that plays right into the hands of these busybodies who want to know everything that we are doing.

    Legislating for the lowest common denominator effectively criminalises the entire UK population. That, or places every single man, woman and child as a bona fide suspect - no matter that no crime has been committed. Just legislate in case the individual decides to commit one. The crying shame is that we already had sufficient law to prosecute the criminal. Just somewhere along the line we decided that the criminal was the victim and that society was this big wicked thing that needs to be controlled and punished at every turn.

    We are not so much sleepwalking into a surveillance society - it is apparent that we are throwing a street party to welcome in this new era of the real Big Brother. Even Orwell could not have predicted that his writings would come to being with such accuracy. One could be forgiven for thinking that our Liberal Elite (of all political persuation) are actually trying to model the UK on the contents of his book 1984.

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear? Dream on. When the finger of suspicion points at you, then you won't be quite so liberal minded about this. You will be guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.

    History will judge these times unfavourably.

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