The Metropolitan Police have had a useful web site for reporting a crime or road accident for some time – see https://www.met.police.uk/ , where is not an emergency. It’s very easy to use and saves you having to visit a police station. They also now seem to have added a specific page to enable you to report a road incident and upload some dashcam footage – see: https://www.met.police.uk/dashcam
But one person said on Twitter: “Can someone explain why I can film freely with a dashcam but to put a CCTV camera in a public space I have to jump through various legal hoops under the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice issued “to ensure that the use of cameras is only used in pursuit of a specified purpose”.
That’s a good question. A quick review tells me that this is a complex area of regulations. The use of video cameras is governed by two bodies – the Information Commissioner (ICO) who lays down guidelines, and the Surveillance Commissioner who regulates Police Forces and Local Authorities but their guidance is only advisory for other organisations so far as I can see.
But the ICO barely seems to be keeping up with technology. For example they say “The ICO recommends that users of drones with cameras should operate them in a responsible way to respect the privacy of others” and not much more.
In essence I conclude that a dashboard camera (dashcam) is no different to using any other kind of camera in a public place and hence is not subject to regulation except that any photographs that may contain personal information need to be stored securely and other data protection rules apply.
But a fixed video camera that covers a public place (e.g. a street outside your house) is subject to guidelines issued by the ICO and unless there is a justifiable purpose a complaint against it might be upheld.
There is clearly a general privacy issue here. Dashcams are obviously very useful if an accident has occurred or a potential crime. That has to be counterbalanced against the pervasive surveillance of the population that now happens in all locations and at all times. In London this has reached astonishing proportions. One estimate is that there are 500,000 video cameras in London and the Police have access to the Congestion Charge and ULEZ cameras and others that will soon cover most of London. That’s in addition to all the commercial and domestic cameras. In essence privacy has disappeared if you live in London!
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