Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 31 May 2007

Legality of CCTV cameras open to doubt

The Telegraph online has a report which quotes the chairman of independent watchdog CameraWatch, Gordon Ferrie, as saying:

"Our research shows that up to 90 per cent of CCTV installations fail to comply with the Information Commissioner's code of practice, and that many installations are operated illegally. That has profound implications for the reputation of the CCTV and camera surveillance industry and all concerned with it."

However, the report also quotes Ken Macdonald, Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland as saying:

"We welcome the initiative by CameraWatch to promote compliance with the Data Protection Act. We are not aware of any evidence that supports the suggestion that 90 per cent of CCTV cameras are not complying with the ICO Code of Practice. We don't believe there is any such evidence. Where we receive complaints that CCTV is being used in breach of the Data Protection Act we will investigate. We have a range of enforcement powers at our disposal."

Whilst I would like to believe that Mr Ferrie's organisation may have come up with a method of thwarting the surveillance state by demonstrating the illegality of the vast bulk of CCTV installations in the country with the most CCTV surveillance in the world I must admit I am sceptical. I find it difficult to believe that at least one defence lawyer in a court case has not latched onto this idea before when attempting to defend his/her 'crim' client.

On a related matter there is now a TV 'industry' devoted to programmes which are simply re-runs of police surveillance tapes of the 'car chase' variety; I have often wondered just what is the legality of using these tapes to satisfy the thrill-seeking instincts of a prurient television audience. Perhaps it is simply because the type of person caught up in these police chases has neither the intelligence nor the financial resources to obtain the professional legal counsel to allow the use of such tapes for public entertainment to be challenged in court. And how does this use fit into the Data Protection Act?

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