back to article Europe's top court mulls vandal's right to privacy after bloke catches thug on home CCTV

Europe’s top court ruled Thursday that data protection rules apply to private surveillance cameras if they record people on the public footpath. The regulations in question – the Data Protection Directive – insists personal information can't be held for longer than necessary, and that consent must be given, and so on, although …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    correct me if I'm wrong...

    But did they just say that data protection rules only apply if you find out you've been recorded?

  2. Frederic Bloggs

    The end of the Surveillance State?

    I know I am be recorded by the 1000's of cameras deployed here in the UK. Does this mean they all have to ask my permission?

    Of if one were to break one of the windows in a building, say in the Vauxhall area (one might, for instance, take agin green window glass) from the public pavement, does this mean one could get away with it?

    1. Vociferous

      Re: The end of the Surveillance State?

      > Does this mean they all have to ask my permission?

      Most of them are corporate, so no. In practice the laws only apply to private citizens.

    2. El_Fev

      Re: The end of the Surveillance State?

      "Of if one were to break one of the windows in a building, say in the Vauxhall area (one might, for instance, take agin green window glass) "

      If you are talking about a certain building , where a certain three letter security agency is housed, you could break their window, but if by getting away it , you mean ending up in a unmarked grave somewhere ,then go ahead. Literally YOUR funeral!

    3. Velv
      Boffin

      Re: The end of the Surveillance State?

      I think you'd struggle to break those windows.

      Well, not without using C4, and I suspect the breaking of the window would be the least of your worries after that.

  3. Snorlax
    Facepalm

    The Law Really Is An Ass

    Does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy while on a public street? While committing a criminal act?

    I would have thought the homeowner's right to protect his home outweighs the vandal's privacy concerns...

    1. Oninoshiko
      WTF?

      Re: The Law Really Is An Ass

      I've never understood a right to privacy in public. I mean, it's public. That's kinda the opposite of private.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: The Law Really Is An Ass

      > reasonable expectation of privacy

      ...is a US concept, it has nothing to do with the EU law. Requiring a reasonable expectation of privacy would be commonsensical, and if there's anything the EU has abandoned on internet & privacy, it's common sense.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Law Really Is An Ass

        Privacy in public. I have got a reasonable expectation that my every move will not be traced by someone.

        I should also point out that CCTVs don't protect your property they just record what happens to it.

        Finally, if the police got off their backsides and stopped wasting resources working for large companies (IP propaganda etc.) and chasing whatever the governments current fashion crime is they might get time to tackle crime which actually effects normal people and we wouldn't be tempted into putting up CCTV cameras everywhere.

  4. Alan Sharkey

    what about cameras in cars and lorries

    So, I record an idiot in a car doing something illegal (like running a red light). I can't hand it over to the police or post it on facebook if the driver can be identified????

    I think the law needs a teensy update.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: what about cameras in cars and lorries

      Not in Germany you can't, no. Even blurring the registration number is not sufficient. Dashcam footage is simply illegal here - for anything other than private use. You can't hand it to the police, insurance company or post it on the Internet.

      1. Radbruch1929

        @big_D: Re: what about cameras in cars and lorries

        I politely disagree: The case you quote did not find that it is completely illegal to record while driving. The court specifically and explicitly did not decide on scenic recording that may include other drivers (but not intentionally) or crash cams. Rather, the dash cam used in the case you quote was installed with the admitted intent to record other drivers in order to "play traffic police".

        Otherwise, the jury in Germany is still out whether dash cam recordings are legal. Under the general rules, scenic recording is more likely to be legal than not. Crash cams (which record continuosly but only für a relatively short timespan of about 3 minutes before a crash) also stand good chances of being legal. But at the moment, there is no precedent which would make it relatively safe to assume one result or the other.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: what about cameras in cars and lorries

      > can't hand it over to the police

      Yes you can, but do it anonymously. Ideally you should leak it to the cops via a lawyer or journalist, that makes it illegal for the cops to investigate who took the video. As they don't "know" who took it they have to accept it as evidence.

      > post it on facebook

      Don't do that. That would be a clear violation of privacy under EU law.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: what about cameras in cars and lorries

        But, even if the police receive it anonymously, they can't act on it, as it cannot be used as evidence before the court.

        1. daemonoid

          Re: what about cameras in cars and lorries

          "But, even if the police receive it anonymously, they can't act on it, as it cannot be used as evidence before the court."

          Ah... but, the recollection of someone who has viewed it can be used in court.

  5. Dig

    Does this also now mean that photographers can now no longer take pictures in public spaces unless they contain no identifiable faces. I can see lots of policeman taking cameras and citing data protection laws now.

    1. Snorlax

      I can see lots of policeman taking cameras and citing data protection laws now.

      Cops in England, Wales and NI can't confiscate a camera or delete your photos without a court order

      http://www.lcpu.org/docs/2011/ACPO%20Letter%20Photo%20Law%200810.pdf

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        That was before this judgement trumped that one. If they feel you are committing an offence, they can take the camera as evidence. And this judgment WILL be interpreted in that way at some point either by a PCSO or a real cop. And we all know how slowly the wheels of justice can turn when it's not in your favour.

        1. Snorlax

          That was before this judgement trumped that one. If they feel you are committing an offence, they can take the camera as evidence.

          If I'm lawfully going about my business taking photos or recording video in a public place, a cop can't confiscate my camera. The letter of guidance from the ACPO was issued to remind cops of this fact.

          If I'm standing outside GCHQ headquarters (or some other 'protected place') taking photos of employees coming and going then, yeah, I'm probably going home without my camera.

          I don't see how this judgement trumped anything...

          1. big_D Silver badge

            "If I'm standing outside GCHQ headquarters (or some other 'protected place') taking photos of employees coming and going then, yeah, I'm probably going home without my camera."

            Well, you probably aren't going home any time soon... ;-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Well, you probably aren't going home any time soon... ;-)"

              Or you might be going to a lovely new home, where the weather is much hotter and everyone wears an orange jumpsuit.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      It depends on where you are.

      For example, here in Germany, you can take a photo in public and people who are in the background are okay, but people who are "part of the picture", as opposed to just passing by, need to give their permission.

    3. Vociferous

      > photographers can now no longer take pictures in public spaces

      Yeah that's illegal BUT let me explain how junk laws like this works: they criminalize a wide swath of society, but the enforcement is left to the discretion of the police. So....

      > policeman taking cameras

      ...will only happen if you piss the policeman (or a journalist, or a politician) off. So in 99.999% of cases you can take photos like this with impunity, and as for the 0.001% of people who randomly get slapped with a heavy fine and perhaps some jailtime, well, they shouldn't have tried to photograph a cop/politician/journalist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Flame

        "well, they shouldn't have tried to photograph a cop/politician/journalist."

        But it's ok for them to photograph / video you when you are not committing any offence. Go figure.

        1. Vociferous

          > But it's ok for them to photograph / video you when you are not committing any offence

          Of course. Again, enforcement of junk laws is left to the discretion of the police, and they're not likely to arrest themselves.

      2. sabroni Silver badge
        Facepalm

        they shouldn't have tried to photograph a cop/politician/journalist.

        Of course they shouldn't. Those are three groups of people we can definitely trust to behave themselves correctly at all times.

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        they shouldn't have tried to photograph a cop/politician/journalist.

        Policemen and politicians are public servants, we pay their wages and while they're on duty they can damn well stand there and be photographed when we tell them to.

        As for the hypocrisy of a journalist who doesn't want to be photographed, the phrase "in the public interest, m'lud' comes to mind.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This appears to have happened in czech republic, based on the location the case was bounced back to.

    In the UK, in a public space you have no reasonable expectation of privacy & cannot stop or prevent anyone from recording you in said public space. Despite thier protestations otherwise it is fully legit for members of the public to make visual records of interactions with the police / government members etc in public spaces or even private if you are the one who owns the private property (just make sure they cant hang a 'its for terrorist purposes' tag around your neck, as then it is illegal)

    however if you do use home cctv, a couple of visible warning signs on the exterior of your home & make sure your cameras arent pointing deliberatly at the pavement/road (if you just happen catch a little due to lens / camera placement well thats fair game as i understand the legal position on it) and you should comply with UK law.

    *of course non of the above constitutes legal advice & i'm not a lawyer, if you want to be bulletproof then consult one in person & dont believe everything you read on the internet*

    1. billse10

      "even private if you are the one who owns the private property"

      Hardly worth trying to film UK police. They'll weasel out of any complaint anyway.

      When you get four police offices, one of whom has just assaulted a friend but refuses to identify himself, and you put in a complaint, the other three say "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", regardless of any evidence or witnesses, and the Met say nothing bad happened.

      1. billse10

        sorry that was a bit shouty. Not withdrawing it though, in hope that a Met police person sees it and actually cares what the public think.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      "In the UK, in a public space you have no reasonable expectation of privacy & cannot stop or prevent anyone from recording you in said public space. Despite thier protestations otherwise it is fully legit for members of the public to make visual records of interactions with the police / government members etc in public spaces or even private if you are the one who owns the private property (just make sure they cant hang a 'its for terrorist purposes' tag around your neck, as then it is illegal)

      however if you do use home cctv, a couple of visible warning signs on the exterior of your home & make sure your cameras arent pointing deliberatly at the pavement/road (if you just happen catch a little due to lens / camera placement well thats fair game as i understand the legal position on it) and you should comply with UK law.

      These 2 paragraphs are contradictory.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        These 2 paragraphs are contradictory.

        Yes they are but dont blame me, blame the lawyers / judges & parliment for not bothering to make things clear. Best thing to do if you are going to use is put up some sort of 'cctv in operation' sign and try not to aim your cameras in any blatent obvious manner at the pavement/roads.

        Again as I understand it, the problems arise from data protection laws, as in this case regarding identification processing, rather than the law that makes clear the lack of privacy in a public space.

        Its a stupid situation I agree & very much similar to the home defence law in the UK where if you kill someone by striking as soon as you see an intruder, with whatever is to hand you have the defence of 'in fear for your life' but if you try to ascertain the situation or take steps to arm/armour yourself against the intruder you are breaking the law :S :S :S

        Take it up with your MP, if you can get any of the idiots to listen or care about anything beyond their next vote massaging tabloid headline

        *again not a lawyer & none of this constitutes legal advice in any manner*

  7. john devoy

    The problem is that common sense takes a back seat when a shyster lawyer sees a loophole.

  8. Vociferous

    What the F is wrong with the EU?!

    Seriously, why has the EU gone full retard on the internet & privacy?

    1. Snorlax

      Re: What the F is wrong with the EU?!

      Seriously, why has the EU gone full retard on the internet & privacy?

      In case you haven't heard the news in the last couple of years, the award for going "full retard on the internet & privacy" goes to the US and the UK. The rest of the EU doesn't come close.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: What the F is wrong with the EU?!

        Nope. The US isn't trying to censor the internet, only the EU is.

        But OK, granted: the UK takes the cake.

    2. sabroni Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: retard

      You better mean that as "slowing" and not "mentally disabled". As a term of abuse it's unacceptable. Rein it in.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    70A Karma

    I wonder if it is OK to cover the house in rubber panel, would make catapult use a bit more instant feedback.

    I'm sorry the camera footage is not usable I was laughing at the time.

  10. Alfred 2

    In the UK

    The ICO will take no action if you are an individual recording members of the public fr 'personal use', I have checked this with the ICO after someone recorded patients in a hospital. As far as the ICO was concerned the person concerned was not recording on behalf of an organisation so it wasn't of interest to them.

    Not all Eurpoean judgements on Data Protection affect the UK, our Data Protection regulations are not quite the same as the res of Europe, and, the Information Commissioner allows a lot of leeway for journalistic purposes etc.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So your right to privacy is more important than the right not to be a thieving criminal twat?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup, same reason you can't use razor wire on your fence in case the low life scum bag hurts himself.

      1. Snorlax

        Yup, same reason you can't use razor wire on your fence in case the low life scum bag hurts himself.

        You can use razor wire to top off a fence or roof. Just make sure you've put up warning signs and taken out insurance.

        What you can't do is dig a hole inside your property and fill it with razor wire to make a trap.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Hmm it's actually a grey area...The police stance:

          "Using barbed/razor wire and broken glass in order to stop people getting in to your home is not advisable. You are making yourself liable to civil action as you owe a duty of care to ensure that visitors to your property are reasonably safe. Odd as it may seem, you also owe a duty of care to trespassers."

          https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q78.htm

          another couple of points of view:

          The Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides some protection to householders. If a trespasser suffers an injury during the course of a crime, for which he is subsequently convicted and for which he could be sent to prison, he will only be able to sue the householder if he gets the court’s permission to do so....."

          Note it says convicted and "sent to prison"

          ....there are more grey areas on the the site:

          http://www.protectingyourself.co.uk/using-barbed-wire-glass-intruder-prevention-methods.html

          1. Snorlax

            Hmm it's actually a grey area...

            It's not illegal, so for somebody to say "You can't use razor wire" is false.

            The police can't charge me with a criminal offence if some $%^& injures himself on barbed wire while trying to climb over my wall onto my property.

            If I was looking for legal advice I wouldn't ask a cop anyway... Saying "it's not advisable" is about as much as they can do.

            If Johnny Scumbag is injured, he can certainly try to sue me. He's unlikely to get much compensation if I can show the court that I discharged my duty of care by putting up signs warning of the danger of injury, that the source of injury was clearly visible, and that I didn't act with malice...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              can he see in the dark?

              Or do you have to provide illuminated signs?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        razor wire, et al

        AFIK the issue is how safe is it to normal people or the emergency services if a call is made for fire/assault/etc. So if there is a warning sign and it is well above typical passer-by accidental contact height, you are probably OK. Hidden traps, etc, are not.

  12. The JP

    What the judgment actually considers...

    ...is two things:

    A. Can you use CCTV to record criminal activity? The answer is probably yes. However, this isn't really what the judgment is about.

    B. If you as a private individual place a CCTV camera on your house, and it records a public space, are you subject to the full weight of data protection law? The answer to this is a definite yes. So you need to put up signage, register with your local data protection authority, ensure appropriate security measures etc etc

    You may (or may not) think this is a good idea. However, similar reasoning is likely to apply to other technology, e.g. Google Glass, social media etc. meaning that many private individuals are treated as businesses when it comes to complying with data protection law. In the UK, the Information Commissioner has stuck his head in the sand on this issue and I expect it to remain firmly embedded there for the foreseeable future.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: e.g. Google Glass

      Sweet! Make users carry signs!!

      (Signage? What is it with the desire to use a fancier sounding word? They're signs, not "signage"!)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK so the Data Protection Laws have somehow got involved in photography.

    What happens if the recordings are made by a film camera on film? Do the Laws related to the storage of 1's and 0' suddenly apply to the density of silver on a plastic sheet?

  14. The JP

    Film Photography

    @ AC: Pictures on camera film are not caught by data protection laws. Apparently the Swedish police kept using film camera for sometime after digital cameras became widely available for this very reason....

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Film Photography

      > the Swedish police kept using film camera

      Yes. They also kept (perhaps still keep) a lot of their files on paper to avoid the draconic and idiotic Swedish data protection laws.

  15. veeguy

    Although its certainly not always the case, in this instance US law makes more sense. It holds that a person can record others if they are in a location that has no reasonable expectation of privacy. Thus, walking on a public sidewalk is fair game while standing inside a public washroom is not. It usually is extended to private property also, ie.- Someone recording a person standing in your living room is permissible while doing the same to someone in your bathroom is not.

    In any case, person's committing a crime should forfeit their right to protest the technology that got them caught. All they had to do to avoid this breech of their "rights" is to NOT do the crime.

  16. Brian Allan 1

    Ridiculous waste of court time!

    Why is this even being discussed!? Throw the scum in jail and be done with it!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    balance

    you also wonder - well, I do anyway - why the rules say private citizens can't use CCTV to protect their property without complying with all sorts of data protection rules, yet councils can view & record whatever they like (including cameras that overlook private property) and have absolutely no obligation to help prevent crime or help the police if things are caught on their cameras ... certainly no sanctions of any use against them if they choose not to, anyway ...

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