Community based CCTV Scheme receives clarification from the Data Protection Commission (DPC)

In pursuance of the Programme for a Partnership Government, a community based CCTV scheme was established with the intention of supporting local communities who wish to install and maintain CCTV security systems in their area, with the intention of increasing public safety and deterring illegal or anti-social behaviour.

The scheme is designed to provide financial assistance, to qualifying local organisations, towards meeting the capital costs associated with the establishment of local community CCTV systems. The maximum grant awardable by the Department, in any circumstances, is €40,000. Within this limit, grants of up to 60% of the total capital costs of the system may be awarded.

Take-up of the grants has been low. Factors including data protection obligations have been blamed with some media reporting difficulties that have apparently chilled applications!

The Data Protection Commission has published a helpful statement to clarify the position from their perspective.

The DPC states: ‘First and foremost, it is not the case that data protection law is preventing the commencement and operation of Community based CCTV schemes.’ Community based CCTV schemes require a legal basis to operate and this is provided under Section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.

Conditions to be met in order to obtain authorisation from the Garda Commissioner for the installation and operation of a Community based CCTV scheme include: 

  • The CCTV scheme has been approved by the local authority after consultation with the joint policing committee for that administrative area;
  • The CCTV scheme will comply with technical specifications issued by the Garda Commissioner and will be operated in accordance with the Code of Practice;
  • Members of An Garda Síochána will be given access at all times to the CCTV system for the purposes of supervising and controlling its operation and retrieving information or data recorded by it; and
  • The local authority gives an undertaking that it will act as a data controller in respect of the CCTV system

In summary, the legal basis exists for establishment for CCTV schemes where the Local Authority acts as data controller.

 CCTV Community Schemes and GDPR

The DPC also clarifies that the GDPR has NOT introduced new barriers to the installation of Community based CCTV schemes. The legal basis to process personal data has been in place in Ireland almost three decades (Data Protection Acts, 1988 & 2003)! The DPC, however, expects each local authority, which now has a data protection officer employed, to be fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to data protection rights generally including whether to conduct a data protection impact assessment.

In parallel to the above the DPC is currently engaged in a broad enquiry, including the thirty one authorities, into ‘surveillance of citizens by the State sector for law enforcement purposes through the use of technologies such as CCTV (including community schemes), body worn cameras, Automatic Number Plate Recognition-enabled systems and drones’.

Summary reports will be published separately for each authority as a data controller. In the interim, ‘the Data Protection Commission has not called for any pause on the roll-out of any proposed Community based CCTV schemes or for the decommissioning of any existing scheme that has been authorised by the Garda Commissioner.’

The DPC further confirms…

‘The ongoing inquiry by the Data Protection Commission does not stand in the way of the continued operation of existing Community based CCTV schemes that have been authorised by the Garda Commissioner and for which the relevant local authority has undertaken to act as data controller  and which are implemented in accordance with the requirements for appropriate governance and controls’

The take-away from this piece is that community CCTV schemes are permissible where certain conditions are satisfied and maintained incentivised with good grant support. For more information about CCTV community scheme applications, appraisals and policies etc. please contact:

Carter Anhold Solicitors
Sligo Office, 1 Wine Street, Sligo Co Sligo F91 X58H or Dublin Office, 212A, The Capel Building, Mary’s Abbey, Dublin 7, D07 FXF8

Tel. 00353 71 916 2211

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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