Does your neighbour own a CCTV camera that is angled towards your property? Do you have a suspicion they are using their camera to monitor you night and day? If so, they are likely to be breaking the law.
According to consumer rights group Which?, security cameras are becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners with roughly 10% of those surveyed owning a home CCTV or wireless camera system. But an increase in residential CCTV also means there is more opportunity than ever before for others to infringe your right to privacy, whether inadvertently or intentionally. Despite the benefits that CCTV cameras offer, the scope for them to be misused and ultimately law-breaking is alarming.
Why are homeowners investing in CCTV systems?
The popularity of CCTV systems come as no surprise, who wouldn’t want to have the peace of mind knowing your home is protected? It’s also worth considering that the presence of CCTV in your neighbourhood could ultimately prove beneficial for you. A 2017 Co-op Insurance survey of former burglars found that CCTV cameras are among the most effective deterrents for home burglaries, along with barking dogs, burglar alarms, and TV’s being left on.
Security cameras can provide invaluable evidence when it comes to solving criminal investigations. According to a study by Nottingham Trent University, CCTV footage was useful to police in 65% of their investigations, and the probability of crimes being solved rose from 23% to 48% in cases where it was deemed helpful. Plenty of CCTV footage is also admissible in court, providing valuable evidence.
What laws are domestic CCTV cameras subject to?
Although there is nothing inherently illegal about domestic CCTV cameras being installed, the way your neighbours use these cameras may still break the law.
Privacy and harassment laws
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 states that an individual has the right to respect for their private and family life, and of their home. This means that if your neighbour’s camera is overlooking your property and directly monitoring your activities, this is breaching your right to privacy. Likewise, if you suspect that your neighbours are using their cameras with audio record settings on, it can be deemed as invasive and in violation of your human rights. Such use of cameras could even be tantamount to harassment or voyeurism and be subject to legislation like the Harassment Act 1997.
Data protection laws
Your neighbour’s CCTV camera could also be subject to data protection laws under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It would fall under the GDPR if installed with the intention of monitoring behaviour in a publicly accessed area like your street. Such recordings are essentially collecting data on you and others, making it difficult for individuals to claim their camera is for their own domestic purposes. In this scenario, the homeowner must be registered as a data controller otherwise they could be filming illegally.
You may also have the right to access footage of you or your property through a Subject Access Request (SAR), as this may reveal personal information about you. Your neighbour must provide you with this footage within 30 calendar days. However, only the police can compel the homeowner to hand over footage that relates to the detection and investigation of a crime. You should get in touch with your insurer or solicitor, or contact the police directly in this situation.
Under the GDPR, your neighbours should also put up clear signs that state CCTV is in operation. They should also only keep the footage as long as they need it and shouldn’t release it to any third parties.
What can I do if I suspect my neighbour’s CCTV system is breaking the law?
If your neighbour’s camera is pointing towards any part of your property, or you suspect you are being audio recorded by a camera, you may make a complaint directly to the police. You would have to prove that your neighbour is breaching your privacy or harassing you through their camera. Depending on the circumstances, the police may not take serious action straight away. Instead they may ask your neighbours to change their filming habits, before taking further action if they fail to do so. With this in mind, it may be worth trying to contact your neighbour yourself to try and resolve the situation before going to the police, especially as your neighbour may not even realise they are bothering you.
As domestic CCTV cameras become more popular, the scope for your privacy to be contravened is higher than ever before. Make sure you look out for some of the scenarios explored in this article and take the appropriate action if you feel your neighbours are breaking any privacy or data protection laws. Nonetheless, it’s worth keeping in mind that your neighbour’s CCTV system may also be helping to keep your property safe and secure from criminals.