back to article CCTV must not record conversations, warns new guidance

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) system operators would need exceptional justification for recording sound as well as video, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned. In a newly revised CCTV code of practice (pdf) the ICO said that sound recording is intrusive and unnecessary in most circumstances, and that the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Watch what you say, because they watch what you say.

    Watch what you say, because they watch what you say.

    Not just with CCTV cameras with mic's but RIPA means they can pull all your email and communications without a court order, in secret, without proving cause.

    So watch what you say, even if they don't attach the microphone to the lampposts.

  2. Sam


    The area in front of my garage is inside my property line...if people have trespassed onto it, can I not record their conversation if for example, it's a drug deal?

    (I put the camera up because we get stuff dumped there occasionally.)

    Anybody know?

  3. dervheid


    The only thing CCTV seems to be any use for is providing hours of footage for trash TV portraying " ******* Stupidest Criminals" shows. (Insert the name of your most/least favourite nation in place of *******

  4. Anonymous John

    I can't reaaly see why anyone would want to.

    You'd pick up several coversations at once most of the time, plus traffic noise, etc. Most CCTV gives poor quality pictures. I doubt that many would record intelligible speech.

  5. adnim

    I don't recognise

    the states right to even film/photograph me, let alone listen in on my conversations.

    Let's have cameras in every room in every government building in Whitehall/Westminster, filming our public "servants" (now there's a laugh I should have said masters) every action. And pump those images to big screens dotted around UK cities via dedicated freeview channels.

    It might be illegal to record conversations now, but our masters have a habit of changing the law to suit their needs. And the sheeple acquiesce, leaving those who do think for themselves as a hardly visible, ineffective minority.

    Does the government ever consider that as our foreign policy encourages those who feel abused to don rucksacks and blow up train loads of people, the erosion of our freedoms and liberties at home could actually contribute the disaffection of our youth, and that the us and them attitude just serves to alienate further?

  6. M

    Hmm just what about them....

    ...Deaf people who converse in Sign Language!

    Well at least they can flash a "V" sign at them anyway! ;)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Parabolic microphones @ I can't reaaly see why anyone would want to.

    Directional mics centred on the 'point of aim' of the camera would actually pick up conversation very well.

    1984 anyone?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    A real winner

    What baffles me is the only problem this bloke sees with recording speech from CCTV is "[it] could undermine any public support there is for CCTV". You folks in the UK really have a winner here. Is it because the country has been traumatised by the 2005 attacks that such a useless occupancy of space is tolerated ?

    Also, how strong his requirements are, mad: "You should choose a system without this facility if possible. If your system comes equipped with a sound recording facility then you should turn this off or disable it in some other way."

    Ok, so, on the CCTV mark I bought, wasn't possible, too bad. So is ok, thanks, ICO for being the ticked mark guy. I'm even sure if I buy the only model with sound recording, but lower the volume just a bit, you'll still be happy. Easy going, really.

    On the other side of the spectrum, listening to special radio channels (military, etc ...) is forbidden, thus, in some countries, any radio station sold is without those frequencies available.

    Always good to compare the 2 ...

    PH icon, due to bollocks threshold crossed.

  9. Mike Crawshaw

    "Limited Circumstances"??

    "In the limited circumstances where audio recording is justified"

    These "limited circumstances" would obviously be "everywhere, all the time" because WE HAZ TO STOP TEH TERRIRESTS!!!!!!!!!!!! and if you oppose it on the outmoded grounds of freedom of speech and personal privacy, you're obviously a terrorist too. Won't somebody please think of the children!?!?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    inadmissable evidence...?

    So, reading between the lines, if I was to install a couple of CCTV cameras around my property (we've had numerous break-ins, trespasses, criminal damage etc), anything recorded would not be allowed as evidence in court if I didn't display the warning notices and register the cameras ? I was under the impression that these requirements only applied to commercial systems, not domestic security cameras. I'm aware that they shouldn't point outside the property/boundary lines.

    I'd be grateful if someone could confirm this either way.

  11. 3x2

    @ I can't realy see why anyone would want to.

    Well like everything else that goes on in this country .. because we can.

    [...] and to prevent its use becoming increasingly viewed as part of the surveillance society [...] unlike biometric ID, DNA database, RIPA, on-line medical history ..... it's all for your own good of course.

  12. Paul Kinsler Silver badge


    ... how does this work with those using sign language? Do they have to

    turn the cameras off when deaf people walk by?

    I sense an opportunity for the deaf members of the criminal fraternity!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sign Language

    I was thinking about the sign language angle from a slightly different angle. If enough people made a point of learning it, and using it, wouldn't this precedent apply against CCTV cameras recording video as well? :-)

  14. Mike Holden

    @inadmissable evidence...?

    You did read the linked document didn't you? You didn't? Oh.

    It specifically states that this applies to businesses. Private individuals are not covered. There is no need for individuals to install signs so long as the area covered is reasonable (i.e. you own property and nearby public areas, e.g. the road outside your house).

  15. Martin H Watson

    "The Conversation"

    Watch Gene Hackman in "The Conversation".

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Retro film stars


    We could always attend a lip reading course to decypher the criminal's conversations in the (very likely) event of our valued property being robbed even though it is "guarded" by [the toothless means of] CCTV!

    On a personal note, as I cannot record anyone's audio conversation, I may as well buy a black and white CCTV camera. I can then speed up the playback by 25% and have my very own "Keystone Cops" type movie production company! As I will probably not be allowed to use the video as evidence against the criminals, I may as well use the footage to ridicule them through YouTube!

    Man I love the nanny state of PC gone berserko

  17. Mike Westmacott

    Cover your mouth!

    What defines a conversation? One could argue that it doesn't have to have sound in it (thanks Paul K) and so any form of transaction between two people might be exempt.

    Of course a nice quality camera would be sufficient to allow a good lip reader to work out what was going on without sound, so does this mean that they won't introduce high resolution cameras?

    Never! They won't stop until they can identify people by the way their spuds swing in their slacks, or their boobs bounce in their bras.

    I'll get my coat and leave quietly since I've worked a bit on gait recognition...

  18. WhatWasThat?

    Solve the problem against lipreading

    ... By bringing back those SARS protective masks!

    Free yourself from the VIRUS(tm) of Government Control!

  19. Justin Clift

    What constitutes "recording of sound"?

    Hmmmm, so if the sound is hooked up to automatically do voice recognition and record the text versions of the conversations, then that wouldn't "technically" be breaking this guidance?

    (Would also make searches across large amounts of conversations far easier.)

    Hopefully this aspect gets addressed in law somewhere, to disallow circumvention like this.

  20. night troll

    What's the point?

    "I would say that 95 per cent are non-compliant in one way, shape, form or another with the [Data Protection] Act,"

    If 95% are illegal and evidence gained from them could be challanged in court, resulting in the case being thrown out. What is the point of all these camaras?

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