How are CCTV signs covered by the Data Protection Act?
Posted by Darren Joint
Like many safety signs, the issues surrounding the correct wording and installation of CCTV signs in the UK can be somewhat of a minefield. Today’s article will attempt to clarify what the law requires, as well as suggesting other CCTV signs to further consolidate the warning message.
In the opinion of this author at least, warning signs relating to CCTV serve two purposes. One is to ensure the workplace is compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) where CCTV systems are in use by the organisation. Secondly, signs should be used to deter intruders and people passing through the building or its grounds from committing a crime or carrying out a malicious act.
Of these two, the tricky bit is the Data Protection Act.
In the UK most uses of CCTV are covered by the Data Protection Act – particularly any system that is used in the workplace. This Act gives individuals the right to see information held about them, including CCTV images. The Data Protection Act lays out the rules which CCTV operators must follow when gathering, storing and releasing CCTV images of individuals. It is then the Information Commissioner’s role to enforce these rules.
Importantly, the CCTV operator has a duty under this legislation to inform people if they are using any CCTV equipment. In almost every case, CCTV warning signs are the most effective and most recommended method of doing just this. (However, it is important to acknowledge in extreme circumstances signs are not always required, but this rule is subject to extremely stringent conditions.)
When complying with the Act, the sign should be specific to you building’s scheme. As such, off-the-shelf signs will not help a business or organisation comply with the DPA.
The CCTV signs should be clearly visible and legible, and give the identity of the person or organisation responsible for the scheme, contact details (telephone number) and the purpose of the scheme. With the relevant boxes completed, the following is the most commonly used:
The above sign should be positioned conspicuously at the main entrance to the area that is covered by CCTV cameras. So, if the cameras are in operation within a building, one of these signs should be positioned near the main entrance at a natural eye level height.
Likewise, if cameras are in operation with the main car park, again the warning sign should be positioned at the entrance to this area so both drivers and people on foot can easily see the sign.
As with any sign, consideration should be paid to the material it is made from. If it is to be installed outside, the installer should think about purchasing a hard-wearing sign made from rigid plastic, aluminium composite. Also, if the sign must be seen from a distance, perhaps from within a car, then it should be of a suitable size that most drivers will realistically be able to read from the required distance.
In addition, general CCTV signs can be used to consolidate the CCTV message to further deter and warn all. Undoubtedly, signs similar to the one below can greater reduce unwanted criminal activities and vandalism. Indeed many companies often choose to save the money they would have spent on a new CCTV system and, instead, spend a fraction of the cost on a number of these warning signs around the building.
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