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Date of publication: September 2016

The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice and Data Protection Code of Practice for Surveillance Cameras and Personal Information (together referred to as the “Code” in this Quick Guide) were created by the Home Office and the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”)respectively to assist data controllers in their usage of surveillance cameras (including CCTV, body worn cameras and devices) in public areas. Where relevant, businesses should follow the Code in order to protect the personal data of anyone captured on surveillance cameras in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Code will be of relevance if: (a) there is monitoring of what an individual is doing; (b) action may be taken as a result of any recorded images; or (c) images may be used in a way that will affect an individual’s privacy.

Where video recording is carried out purely for recreational purposes, household protection, or for news media the data that is subsequently stored will be exempt from the Code.

Using Surveillance Cameras

When using surveillance cameras, an assessment should be carried out on the impact of the scheme on public privacy. Consideration will need to be given to who will be legally responsible for any data obtained and whether they have had training on data processing.

The ICO should be informed of who is responsible for control of the gathered data and why the data is being processed. There needs to be a demonstrable benefit to using surveillance cameras supported by proof that no better solution is available.

The data controller needs to identify the reason for the surveillance camera usage in order to properly assess how, when and where surveillance cameras will be in use. Usage of surveillance cameras should always be proportionate to the problem being tackled and should cause minimal intrusion to the privacy of any subjects. Regular audits should be carried out after implementation to ensure they are still the most appropriate means of processing data.

Viewing spaces caught by cameras that are not of relevance should be minimal and cameras should only be active at the time and place necessary for data processing. If cameras are used for security purposes, they should only be active at times and in areas where problems frequently arise.

Storing and processing images

Images recorded on surveillance cameras should only be made visible to the operator and, where appropriate, those who are being recorded. It should not be possible for a member of the public to view images of other data subjects.

Images should not be kept for longer than is necessary. Depending upon the reason for which data is processed, an organisation will need to decide and implement a retention policy.

Generally only data that may be handed over to police should be stored for more than one month. At the end of the agreed retention period any collected data should be permanently destroyed.

Audio recording facilities

These are only allowed in the limited circumstances with relevant safeguards in place as follows: (a) audio based alert system triggered by noise changes; (b) two-way audio feeds from help points; (c) staff and individuals where reliable recording is required (e.g. police custody); and (d) recording triggered due to a specific threat.
It must be made clear to subjects that audio is being recorded, and if audio is used to broadcast a message to those under surveillance, it must be restricted to the purpose for which the scheme is in place.


Wherever surveillance cameras are in use, notices of an appropriate size must be clearly displayed. For example, where surveillance cameras are in use on a road, notices should be large enough to accommodate drivers travelling at speed.

A notice should always inform the subject when surveillance cameras are in use and should include the contact details of the data controller where this may not be obvious.

Data Requests

An individual has a right to view any images held of them and to request a copy of that image. Please see our separate Quick

Guide on Subject Access Requests for further information.

If you use camera surveillance in your business and the Code then the Code may apply. Should you require advice or assistance, then please contact Ben Robson at ben.robson@ocsolicitors.com or on +44 (0)207 067 4300.


Disclaimer: This note does not contain a full statement of the law and it does not constitute legal advice. Please contact us if you have any questions about the information set out above.   

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