Recordings on personal devices - subject to data protection obligations?

A recent judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has widened the scope of data protection legislation by ruling that it applies to home video surveillance where it monitors a public space.

Guidance by the Information Commissioner (the UK authority for data protection compliance) has previously advised that home CCTV falls under an exemption covering data processing by an individual for personal or household affairs. However, in December the ECJ ruled that where a video recording system monitors a “public space”, such as a public footpath, the exemption does not apply.

The Czech Republic’s highest court had sought clarification on the exemption in a case involving an individual, Mr Rynes, who had put up CCTV monitoring the entrance to his family home, the public footpath and entrance to the house opposite following attacks on his property.

The ECJ noted that it was possible to take into account legitimate interests such as the protection of the property, health and life. How the courts will choose to balance these interests of those doing the recording against the privacy rights of those being recorded is yet to be determined. The Rynes case has been returned to the Czech court for a final decision.

The Information Commissioner is currently considering the ruling and its implications. Any guidance is likely to impact not only on home CCTV but also other types of personal data recording used in public such as helmet cameras for cyclists and filming on mobile devices.

Whilst it is unlikely private individuals processing data for household purposes would be required to comply with such stringent obligations as businesses and government, it is possible that in the future they could be required to put up signs informing people of the video surveillance, securely store footage and only keep recordings for a limited period.

Contact our experts for further advice

Beverley Flynn

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