memorandum, by Mr Yuri Sharandin
In September 2003, the Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights had referred to it a motion for
a recommendation that had been presented by Mr Bindig and othersNote
for a precise assessment of the implications of video surveillance
and its impact on crime rates in member states.
2 On 27 April 2004, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights appointed Ms Maria Eduarda Azevedo (Portugal, EPP/CD) its
rapporteur on this issue to succeed Mr Ignasi Guardans, who was
leaving the Parliamentary Assembly.
3 On 23 May 2005, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
appointed Mr Yuri Sharandin (Russian Federation, EDG) its rapporteur
on this issue.
4 The term video surveillance refers to the technical and electronic
systems that enable the remote monitoring of property and people
using video cameras (closed circuit television, or CCTV). This technology was
developed in response to the growing public feeling of insecurity
in a context of rising crime and the authorities’ desire to boost
crime prevention and crack down on offenders. The present situation
of resurgent terrorism in Europe can only lead to a further increase
in the public’s feeling of insecurity and is scarcely calculated
to foster a reversal of the trend.
5 The issue raised is bound to lead to conflicting arguments
and comments, which is to be expected whenever a technological innovation
affects individual freedoms and privacy. Some people will obviously
cite the need for strict respect for the individual’s rights, dignity
and private life in order to condemn the potential misuse of this
technology and the Utopia of total security, even raising the Orwellian
spectre of Big Brother. Others, on the other hand, will advocate
the necessary limitation of these individual rights and freedoms, claiming
that this is in the general public interest and that there is a
need to ensure public security and protect public order.
6 In the end, the committee will have to answer the specific
question of what social benefits video surveillance provides. We
need to establish whether the use of this technology meets the needs
of our societies and whether the laws and regulations currently
in force guarantee a fair balance between respect for human rights
and public freedoms and the limitation of these rights on the basis
of the proportionality principle.
7 The Council of Europe has been active on this issue, especially
by adopting guiding principles for the protection of individuals
with regard to the collection and processing of data by means of
video surveillance (report adopted by the European Committee on
Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) in May 2003).
8 In order to prepare this report, the Committee on Legal Affairs
and Human Rights held an exchange of views with Mr Paul Wille, Belgian
Senator and member of the Assembly on 3 October 2006. Mr Wille gave details
of the legislative process concerning video surveillance in Belgium,
where draft legislation was currently being debated.
9 Following this exchange of views, the committee decided to
request the opinion of the European Commission for Democracy through
Law (Venice Commission) on “the extent to which video surveillance
is compatible with basic human rights”. The committee raised in
particular the question of defining at what moment does normal observation
of people in public places (by authorities, by institutions, by
citizens) become a legal and political problem, in particular because
of the use of observation cameras, sometimes in a network.
The Venice Commission adopted its opinion at its 70th plenary
session (16-17 March 2007) on the basis of comments by Mr Pieter
Van Dijk, Mr Vojin Dimitrijevic and Mr Giovanni Buttarelli.Note
This opinion has been completed by a second one on video surveillance
by private operators in the public and private spheres and by public
authorities in the private sphere and human rights protection, adopted at
its 71st plenary session (1-2 June 2007).Note
2 A widespread technology
12 The first video surveillance
systems appeared in the 1950s and their development was boosted
by the invention in 1956 of the video cassette. Their use by private
individuals became widespread in the following three decades as
a means of monitoring private premises, whether or not they were
accessible to the public, and made it possible to check on the movements
of people in the vicinity of, at the entrances to, and inside buildings,
such as luxury-goods shops, shopping centres, banks, residential
buildings, etc. Their use was extended to the surveillance of workplaces
and leisure, cultural and sports centres. Today, citizens are fully familiar
with these surveillance systems, which are all the more accepted
as they respond to the demands of a public anxious to preserve its
security and peace of mind.
13 It is thought that the United Kingdom alone – ironically,
Orwell’s homeland – has 4 million surveillance cameras, thus accounting
for 10% of those in use worldwide. This figure has quadrupled in
three years. Some 85% of the United Kingdom’s local authorities
are equipped with video surveillance networks. It is estimated that
about 10 million video cassettes are recorded each day. A British
citizen is said to be filmed five hundred times a week on average
and a Londoner three hundred times a day!
A study carried out in the context of the European Commission’s
published in the spring of 2004 reveals that 90% of British people
questioned were in favour of these systems (compared with 48% of
the Germans and 24% of the Austrians questioned). Some 47% of Londoners,
compared with 4% of the inhabitants of Vienna, think that video
surveillance protects them from crime.
15 Like surveys or opinion polls, which reveal differences of
perception according to the country concerned, the question of the
degree to which these systems are accepted or tolerated has a highly
cultural dimension. In addition, it is not certain that the population
has the same tolerance of video surveillance when it is employed in
a private place as it does in the case of a public place.
16 A survey carried out in France in 1996 revealed that social
acceptability varies according to the application. Only 9% of those
questioned considered the presence of cameras in car parks and shops
a breach of their privacy, whereas 51% thought that the broadcasting,
without their knowledge, of a picture taken in a public place constituted
a serious invasion of privacy. By contrast, the majority of the
population in the United Kingdom are prepared to make more concessions
regarding fundamental rights in order to improve security.
17 From the 1980s onwards, and especially in the 1990s, video
surveillance ceased to be limited to private or semiprivate areas
and began to become widespread in public places. More and more public
bodies are resorting to the installation of video surveillance systems
to monitor public places and buildings: administrative buildings,
national defence installations, prisons, museums, schools, universities,
stations, airports and hospitals, as well as national borders.
18 However, it is mainly in the area of public transport and
the regulation of road traffic that video surveillance systems have
undergone rapid development. The Brussels ring road has been equipped
with cameras since 1993. Cameras are also installed in the main
tunnels through the Alps and in tunnels in Spain and the Scandinavian
countries. However, while video surveillance makes it possible to
regulate traffic and ensure the security of main roads and major
junctions it also enables drivers who commit traffic violations
to be identified. In London, where cameras began to be installed
in 1974, the establishment in 2003 of a scheme for charging motorists
to enter the central area was accompanied by the installation of
some 700 cameras for checking vehicle number plates.
19 Several countries have also installed surveillance systems
on their public transport: 5 000 cameras monitor all the tracks,
platforms and corridors in the Paris metro. The underground railway
networks of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Bucharest, Brussels and Vienna,
in particular, are also equipped with video surveillance. In Switzerland,
the Federal Railways installed a video surveillance system in 2003
to monitor their railway installations and trains. Frankfurt airport
is equipped with 2 000 cameras. More than 40 German stations also
have video surveillance systems.
20 In France, the decision taken in 2003 to install a system
of digital surveillance cameras at the entrances and in the immediate
vicinity of about 90 secondary schools in the Paris suburbs caused
an outcry. Yet more than 100 schools in the United Kingdom are equipped
with a system, as are the schools in three Danish towns. The universities
of Cologne, Edinburgh, Dundee, Cardiff, Porto and Eindhoven, for
example, also possess video surveillance facilities.
21 Video surveillance is also likely to be employed in courtrooms,
since the United Kingdom is considering installing cameras in some
of the country’s appeal courts.
3 Does video surveillance
help to make combating crime more effective?
22 The installation of surveillance
cameras in public places is the public authorities’ response to
the citizens’ feeling of insecurity and their demand for better
crime prevention and law enforcement. The proliferation of these
systems meets security requirements, such as combating the upsurge
in theft, physical violence, vandalism, burglaries, drug dealing,
23 It is clear that video surveillance mainly has law enforcement
applications and serves as a means of visually identifying individuals.
24 Is technology the key to the security of public places? The
conclusions of most studies on the impact of video surveillance
on crime are in fact conflicting.
25 It is true that numerous examples show that video surveillance
is to some extent effective in combating crime, and a surveillance
camera can enable criminals and minor offenders to be identified
26 The use of CCTV has been impressively effective in helping
to apprehend the persons who attempted a car bomb attack in central
London at the end of June 2007. Previously, video surveillance had
proved itself to be of outmost importance in establishing responsibility
for a terrorist attack, since CCTV video featuring the six men accused
of plotting the bomb in the London subway in July 2005 (in which
25 people died and 700 were injured) had been used in their trial.
Also, on 21 July 2005, the police revealed an attempt to detonate bombs
in the London subway by four other terrorist bombers. The four men
were arrested after videos of the suspects were released.
27 Everyone will also remember the tragic assassination of Anna
Lindh, the Swedish Foreign Minister, in a Stockholm department store,
in September 2003. Video surveillance made it possible to identify
and arrest her murderer. A more recent crime case is the murder
of Joe Van Holsbeeck in Brussels in April 2006. The 17-year-old
was stabbed to death at the busy Brussels Central train station.
This case highlighted the police use of video surveillance cameras
to identify and reconstruct the offenders’ movements before and
after Holsbeeck was attacked.
28 A number of figures from a French survey conducted in 1998
show that in the case of bank branches with video surveillance 50%
of thieves are identified and arrested within two years. On the
Paris metro, 83% of incidents are detected by surveillance cameras
and the number of people taken in for questioning has increased
by 36%. Similarly, in a British town of 10 000 inhabitants, where
six cameras monitor the town centre, the number of offences fell
from 137 in 1991 to 37 in 1992. In Monaco, which has cameras everywhere,
the crime rate is three times lower than that of the neighbouring
French département of Alpes-Maritimes.
The Venice Commission also notes that, considering that technology
has dramatically improved, “in comparison with human observance,
video surveillance is by far more effective under several accounts”.
But the Venice Commission also concludes that video surveillance
might be more intrusive with regard to human rights than human observation.Note
is the consequence, in particular, of the possibility of storage
and easy electronic transmission of the images, which does not exist
in the case of human observation.
30 Other studies show that video surveillance is ineffective
in combating crime. For example, video surveillance in the Paris
metro has been no help at all in the fight against terrorism. The
municipality of Levallois-Perret is a noteworthy example of the
ineffectiveness of video surveillance: its streets are monitored more
than almost any others in France but there has nevertheless been
a significant increase in crime.
It is therefore not possible to draw any definitive conclusions
regarding the effectiveness of such a system. In fact, one expert
on the subject, Professor Jason Ditton, the Director of the Scottish
Centre for Criminology in Glasgow, maintains there is nothing to
prove that video surveillance has any impact on the crime rate.
The studies carried out in the 1990s by the Scottish Centre for
Criminology tend to play down the impact of video surveillance on
the crime rate and the citizens’ security reflex.Note
At the 23rd International Conference of Privacy and Data Protection
Commissioners in 2001, mention was made of the automatic facial
recognition system that forms part of a video surveillance schemeNoteNoteNoteNoteNote
set up in the
London Borough of Newham. The town has been equipped since 1998
with a closed circuit video surveillance system coupled with a technology
that enables the police to be alerted when a person contained in
its files passes in front of one of these cameras. When the system
was installed in 1997, 75% of the 250 000 inhabitants were living
in fear of being attacked. This figure was reduced to 67% in 1998
and subsequently continued to decline. In early 1998, a survey conducted
by the local authorities revealed that 67% of those questioned were
in favour of the system. This figure even rose to 93% by the end
of 1999 (the questionnaire took care to ask the respondents to express
their opinion by taking into consideration the possible consequences
of the system on human rights, civil rights and privacy). The face
comparison system is based on police files on persons already convicted
for crimes and involved in criminal activities in the last twelve weeks.
Individual files are examined by the police at least every twelve
weeks. The images of the faces scanned are not preserved unless
they correspond “without any doubt” to a person on file in the database.
The public is informed about all the areas covered by the system.
The result is a 34% reduction in crime since 1997.
The same technology linking a video surveillance system to
a facial recognition system was also tried out in the United States
by the City of Tampa in Florida in January 2001 on the occasion
of the Super Bowl (the final of the American football championship).
This experiment was criticised by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), which concluded in a studyNote
that this technology
was not reliable enough to justify its installation, which threatens
privacy in a number of ways. This system made it possible on several
occasions to indicate the presence of the terrorist Carlos in a
crowd, but he was in fact at that time in France serving a prison sentence.
This raises the question of whether this automatic facial recognition
system is sufficiently reliable.
4 Public security or social
34 For several years now, people
have been speaking out against the dangers of using security as
a pretext. Video surveillance puts a new complexion on the problem
of striking a necessary balance between the prevention of breaches
of public order and the exercise of individual freedoms, freedom
of movement and the right to privacy. The widespread routine use
of video surveillance makes it possible to monitor an ever broader population
without people always being aware of this. In its very principle,
if security is set against freedom, video surveillance poses a risk
of interference with the citizens’ daily lives and of violation
of their right to respect for their privacy. There is also the problem
of the conditions for gathering, using and disseminating the information
and data collected on individuals (in the form of pictures and sound)
through video surveillance. Video surveillance enables people to
be identified directly (facial recognition) or indirectly (via their
vehicle, their clothing, etc.). It makes it possible to multiply
the amount of information available on their behaviour, movements
and activities. The gathering of such data permits the full-scale
tracking of individuals.
35 According to two Belgian lawyers who have written a report
on video surveillance in Belgium, video surveillance threatens privacy
in two ways: where it takes place secretly, it results in the gleaning
of information on certain forms of behaviour or attitudes that the
person concerned might not have wanted to be disclosed; when its
presence is known to the persons concerned, video surveillance encourages
them to adopt certain forms of behaviour or attitudes that differ
to a greater or lesser extent from those they would actually demonstrate
in the absence of surveillance. This latter finding must be related
to the phenomenon of the displacement of crime from the streets
and neighbourhoods equipped with cameras to those without them.
To some extent, this calls into question the effectiveness of video
surveillance in combating crime.
The Venice Commission comes to the same conclusion that “in
principle, before entering a public sphere, a person will adjust
his/her appearance and demeanour to the possibility of being seen
by others”. However, it recalls that even if the degree of privacy
necessarily decreases in a public area, it does not mean that individuals
are deprived “of their rights and freedoms including those related
to their own private sphere and images”.Note
37 Cameras are becoming better and better and can monitor a 360-degree
field of vision. Equipped with zoom lenses, they are, for example,
capable of reading a newspaper from a distance of more than 100
metres or a vehicle number plate from 300 metres. Some contain detectors
that issue a warning in the case of an incident or indications of
abnormality in their field of vision, such as suspect smoke or a
sudden movement. It has been claimed that the cameras in London’s
Oxford Street were able to identify the size of the shoes of the passers-by.
38 The technologies of video surveillance systems are converging
more and more with other technologies, which is giving rise to new
concerns about the protection of privacy and data. These technologies
include, inter alia, sound
recordings, high capacity wireless information networks used for
the transmission of images, automatic facial recognition systems
integrated into computer databases that can identify people or follow
their movements, and devices that make it possible to “see” through
clothes and walls, such as thermal recognition or infrared systems.
The transmission of images via the public telephone networks can
enable images and sound to be received worldwide across national
39 The recorded information can be precisely analysed. It is
possible to install fully automatic identification systems based
on zoom and digital imaging technologies and linked to other digital
databases. For example, in the British City of Bradford video surveillance
is linked to an automatic number plate recognition system (ANPR)
that enables data to be provided automatically for the police files
at the rate of 3 000 registration numbers recorded per hour by each
camera. The Home Office is considering extending the use of this technology
and equipping police cars with it.
Technological developments in the field of video surveillance
– ANPR, automatic facial recognition, etc. – raise even more questions.
How and by means of what procedure is the database of suspects fed
with information? What is a suspect? When is a suspect deleted from
the database? Indeed, as rightly pointed out by the Venice Commission,
“in general, it is not the monitoring as such which is the most
problematic, but the recording of the data and their processing
this context, the protection of personal data is concerned, and
the Venice Commission recalls that it falls within the scope of
private life within the meaning of Article 8, ECHR.Note
41 The use of video surveillance cameras also poses a risk of
discrimination. Studies have shown that staff responsible for viewing
the CCTV screens tend to focus more readily on certain population
categories. The automatic facial recognition process, which is based
on the image of the face, increases even more the fear of serious
abuses connected with an individual’s physiognomy or signs of poverty
or deviant behaviour.
42 Video surveillance may give rise to numerous abuses that are
always hard to prevent. Surveillance systems can easily be used
for other than their declared purposes, for example the introduction
of a social control: cameras installed in a shop to prevent theft
are often used to monitor the staff; and department stores use them
to produce studies on consumer behaviour. On an even more serious
level, video surveillance can be a means of imposing political controls:
the cameras installed at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square served to identify
and arrest regime opponents in June 1989.
A specific case: webcams
43 Finally, it is also necessary
to consider the use of video surveillance in public places by private individuals
rather than public bodies to keep an eye on public areas. The proliferation
of live images shot by video cameras (webcams) and made available
on the Internet poses similar problems concerning respect for privacy
and conformity with the data protection regulations. However, the
problem arises not only with regard to the processing of the data
but above all to their dissemination and to an individual’s right
to his or her own image and the protection of his or her personality.
44 Webcams are generally installed in public places, often at
tourist spots. They can either provide a fixed image or change their
viewing angle, and they can be equipped with a zoom lens. The images
they shoot can be accessed worldwide and are processed, recorded,
printed and transmitted without being subject to any controls. In
order that these cameras are used in conformity with the law, they
should be installed and configured in such a way that no one can
be identified; otherwise, those filmed must consent to being filmed. But,
is this always the case? Depending on the position and the technical
quality of the camera, it is possible to recognise a person filmed,
and that person is unaware that he or she is being filmed and that
the pictures will be received all over the world via the Internet.
45 It is therefore not certain that existing data protection
and privacy legislation will be sufficient to guarantee human rights
in these specific cases.
5 Preventing abuses by laying
down a legal framework based on respect for a number of principles
46 European citizens are not totally
defenceless against these potential or actual abuses. There are
legal instruments available. At the national level, first of all,
very few states have opted to introduce specific legislation concerning
the electronic surveillance of private or public places. On the
other hand, a number of member states have enacted legal and constitutional
provisions that are applicable in this area, especially provisions
that guarantee respect for privacy and human dignity or others concerning
the protection of personal data. At the supranational level, several
international instruments, in particular those of the Council of
Europe, cover the same areas. However, the question arises whether
these instruments are sufficient to provide proper protection for
the citizens who are “watched”.
5.1 Instruments of European
Video surveillance activities
involving the processing of personal data fall within the scope
of the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Individuals
with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, of 1981 (ETS
48 The convention is the first binding international instrument
aimed at strengthening the legal protection of individuals against
the unauthorised use of automatic processing of personal data concerning
them. It applies to both the public and the private sectors and
establishes a number of general principles concerning the collection,
processing and communication of personal data via the new information
technologies. These principles are in particular the lawful and
honest collection and automatic processing of data that are recorded for
particular legitimate purposes and are not used for ends incompatible
with these purposes or preserved beyond the period necessary. The
convention prohibits the processing of “sensitive” data relating
to a person’s racial origin, political opinions, health, religion,
sex life, criminal convictions, etc., in the absence of guarantees provided
by domestic law. It also guarantees the right of the persons concerned
to ascertain what information is stored on them and, if appropriate,
to demand that any necessary corrections be made.
49 This convention has been completed by an Additional Protocol
(ETS No. 181) regarding supervisory authorities and transborder
data flow, which entered into force on 1 July 2004.
50 In order to adapt the general principles set out in the convention
to the specific demands of society’s various areas of activity,
several additional recommendations have been adopted by the Committee
of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Mention might be made of
Recommendation No. R (87) 15 on the use of personal data in the
police sector, Recommendation No. R (91) 10 on the communication
to third parties of personal data held by public bodies, and Recommendation
No. R (99) 5 on the protection of privacy on the Internet.
There is no European Union legal instrument on video surveillance
as such. The video surveillance of public places is only partially
covered by Directive 95/46 of 24 October 1995 on the protection
of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and
on the free movement of such data, since this directive explicitly
excludes certain video surveillance activities – the very activities
that interest us hereNote
from its scope.
52 Community citizens nevertheless enjoy the guarantees provided
by this directive. All the countries of the Union apart from France
have transformed Directive 95/46/EC into national law. It has been
supplemented by Directives 97/66/EC and 2002/58/EC on privacy and
electronic communications. There is still no case law of the Court
of Justice of the European Communities (ECJ) on the subject of video
surveillance, but the Court recognises the application of the proportionality
principle and the need for an overriding public interest to impose
a restriction on a fundamental right.
5.2 Member states’ legislation
53 Few countries have provisions
in their law that specifically regulate the use of video surveillance,
let alone video surveillance in public places. However, the member
states’ legal systems are not entirely without any rules in this
area since legislation on the protection of privacy, the recording
and use of information and personal data, the secrecy or confidentiality
of sensitive information, etc., may be applied to video surveillance activities
and provide a basis for citizen guarantees.
54 Spain is one of the few countries to have adopted legislation
on the video surveillance of public areas. In particular, this law
provides for machinery for authorising its installation by public
legal entities. A high level of integration of the video surveillance
systems (CCTV) with the national emergency and security services
has been achieved in this country.
55 In 2006 the Integrated Centre of Safety and Security Services
(Centro Integrado de Seguridad y Emergencias) was opened in Madrid.
The representatives of police, first aid, fire protection and other
services successfully operate under one roof at this centre. The
crisis centre for emergency interventions can be deployed there
56 The experience of Spain has shown the extreme efficiency of
such centres. The integrated municipal safety system in Madrid is
recognised as the best in Europe.
57 In Spain the practice of the CCTV image output on monitors
accessible for the public installed for example in the underground
and at railway stations is used. This system allows citizens to
be involved in the process of video observation and serves as an
original reminder that the situation in such places is under surveillance.
In the opinion of psychologists such openness, along with the special
unified signs (pictograms approved by the special law of Spain),
serves to reduce the intensity and favourably influences the general conditions
for crime prevention in public places under video surveillance.
58 In Belgium a new law regulating the installation and use of
video surveillance cameras was proposed by Senator Stefaan Norielde
in April 2006.
59 In Great Britain about 5 million CCTV cameras will be in use
in the near future. It is widely known that the average citizen
of London becomes the object of video surveillance 300 times a day.
Some 1 060 CCTV cameras are in operation in Westminster alone.
60 In order to maximise the potential of the national video surveillance
network, a National CCTV strategy project is under construction.
British experts came to the conclusion that without a strategy,
it is likely CCTV in public areas in the United Kingdom will remain
uncoordinated, disparate, of questionable quality, less effective and
poorly targeted. Furthermore, in the absence of a strategy, it is
unlikely that the Treasury will agree to further public funding.
This being the case, there is a danger that the current infrastructure
will deteriorate and society will lose the opportunity to maximise
the effectiveness of CCTV and integrate future technologies that could
greatly assist policing.
61 In France, video surveillance is specifically regulated. The
installation of video surveillance systems on public thoroughfares
and in places or establishments open to the public is governed by
the law of 21 January 1995 and the decree of 17 January 1996. The
law provides that systems may only be installed in public places for
specific purposes (the protection of public buildings and installations,
the control of road traffic, the detection of traffic violations
and the prevention of breaches of the security of individuals and
property). The installation of such systems is subject to prior
authorisation. The video surveillance systems must not enable pictures
to be seen of the interior of residential buildings or their entrances.
The law also provides for a public right to information, for a right
for individuals to access video recordings concerning them and for
the destruction of recordings within a maximum period of one month
(except in the case of an expedited police investigation or a judicial
62 General laws on data protection are in force in several member
states either following the ratification of ETS No. 108 or the transformation
of Directive 95/46/EC into national law. This is the case in Albania,
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark,
Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland,
Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland,
Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
and the United Kingdom, as well as Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, and “the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, although these latter states are
not parties to ETS No. 108.
63 In 33 member states, it is the constitution that establishes
the fundamental principle of the right to privacy or data protection.
Data protection is a basic right laid down in the Portuguese Constitution
of 1976, Article 35 of which provides the citizen with very comprehensive
guarantees (right of access to personal information, right to obtain
and correct information, etc.).
In addition, a majority of member states have set up an independent
regulatory and supervisory authority to ensure compliance with the
principles laid down in their legislation.Note
5.3 Case law of the European
Court of Human RightsNote
65 Video surveillance falls within
the scope of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
(the right to respect for private life – “Everyone has the right
to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”).
The Court has defined in its case law the limits to the exercise
of this right, especially with regard to the extent to which the
public authorities might be entitled to interfere. A public authority
may only interfere with the exercise of the right to privacy if
this interference is provided for by the law and constitutes a measure
that, in a democratic society, is necessary for the defence of a
number of legitimate objectives. In a judgment (M.S. v. Sweden of 27 August 1997),
the Court “reiterate[d] that the protection of personal data … is
of fundamental importance to a person’s enjoyment of his or her
right to respect for private and family life as guaranteed by Article
8 of the Convention”.
66 In its Peck v. the United Kingdom judgment
of 28 January 2003, the Court found itself required for the first
time to consider the problem of an invasion of privacy by video
surveillance. In the case in issue, the applicant had been filmed
trying to commit suicide by a local authority’s remote surveillance
camera, which had led to police intervention. The pictures had been
used by the town council for a press feature and on a national television
channel to promote the prevention of crime, but without masking
the applicant’s identity. The Court ruled that the disclosure of
footage filmed by a surveillance camera infringed the applicant’s
right to privacy without there being any relevant or sufficient
reasons to justify this and held that there had been a violation
of Article 8 of the Convention.
67 For the Court, “the monitoring of the actions of an individual
in a public place by the use of photographic equipment which does
not record the visual data does not, as such, give rise to an interference
with the individual’s private life”. However, video surveillance
must comply with the criteria of strict conformity with the law,
legitimacy and proportionality set out in Article 8, paragraph 2,
of the Convention. The Court considered that “the relevant moment
was viewed to an extent which far exceeded any exposure to a passer-by
or to security observation … and to a degree surpassing that which
the applicant could possibly have foreseen when he walked in Brentwood
on 20 August 1995”. Consequently, the Court concluded that there
had indeed been a serious infringement of the applicant’s privacy,
stating that “the disclosures (of the images) were not accompanied
by sufficient safeguards to prevent disclosure inconsistent with
the guarantees of respect for the applicant’s private life contained
in Article 8”.
68 It should be noted that this is not the only case of video
surveillance involving the United Kingdom. In Martin
v. the United Kingdom (Application No. 63608/00), the
applicant, Janette Martin, a resident of Nottingham, complained
about a breach of Articles 8 (right to respect for family life)
and 14 (ban on discrimination) of the Convention with regard to
the decision of her city council to place her home under video surveillance,
without her knowledge, following complaints by her neighbours concerning
her and her children’s behaviour. The case ended in a friendly settlement.
5.4 The need to press for sufficient
guarantees in the member states’ domestic law
69 Given the increasing development
of video surveillance technologies, it would be desirable to press
for the harmonisation of member states’ legislation in this area.
This legislation should be clearly based on the principles and guarantees
deriving from the Council of Europe’s instruments, especially as
regards the right to privacy and data protection.
70 In May 2003, the Council of Europe’s European Committee on
Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) adopted a report containing guiding principles
for the protection of individuals with regard to the collection
and processing of data by means of video surveillance (see appendix).
It is important for the Parliamentary Assembly formally to call
on the Council of Europe member states to apply these guiding principles
and ensure that they are adhered to as systematically as possible.
National legislation should recognise the following minimum
- the principle of
strict compliance with the law: video surveillance may only be carried
out if it is permitted by law, is justified by an overriding public
or private interest and is accepted by the persons concerned;
- the principle of proportionality: video surveillance must
be an appropriate and necessary means of achieving the aim pursued,
namely security (and especially protection against attacks on property
and/or individuals). It can only be adopted if other measures less
likely to constitute an invasion of privacy prove insufficient or
impracticable. A camera must be installed in such a way that it
only captures images necessary for the surveillance proposed;
- the purpose or legitimacy principle: data may only be
used in connection with protection against attacks on property and
individuals. It cannot give rise to other uses (especially of a
commercial nature). The communication of personal data recorded
by a camera is prohibited in all cases apart from those provided
for or authorised by the law;
- the principle of public information: the existence of
a video surveillance system must be brought to the knowledge of
the public; the person or body responsible for the video surveillance
system must inform the persons entering into the surveillance camera’s
field of vision about the use of such a system by means of a written
- the control principle: the persons directly concerned
by the information gathered as well as the public regulatory authorities
must be able to satisfy themselves that individual rights are respected
by the users;
- the principle of the right of access to the data by the
persons concerned: the persons concerned must be aware of the substance
of the information that a file may contain about them;
- the principle of the right of the persons concerned to
correct erroneous or inappropriate information;
- a right of appeal if one of the above principles is not
complied with: any person concerned must be able to defend his or
her rights in order to be able to check on the information relating
to him or her when it is collected, processed and, if applicable,
- a guarantee of data security: the person or body responsible
for the video surveillance system must take appropriate measures
to allow access to, and the preservation of, personal data in order
to protect them from any unauthorised processing. The preservation
and recording of data must be of limited duration.
72 Several national and European
legal instruments provide minimum guarantees for the protection
of individuals’ rights with regard to video surveillance. According
to current thinking, a European convention or a recommendation of
the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on video surveillance
would not add very much to the existing instruments. However, as
national laws are not homogeneous in this area, it is important
for the Assembly formally to call on the Council of Europe member
states to apply the guiding principles for the protection of individuals
with regard to the collection and processing of data by means of
video surveillance contained in the CDCJ’s 2003 report and to ensure
that they are adhered to as systematically as possible.
73 A unified sign (pictogram) in all member states for places
under video surveillance should be adopted.
74 A unified written notice should accompany the sign (pictogram)
with reference to the law.
75 The existing equipment for video surveillance (CCTV) and the
software allows the use of a very strong (up to 30-50 times) zoom
and resolution of the image. Council of Europe member countries
should adopt legislation limiting the installation of the equipment
with reference to specific places.
76 The existing CCTV equipment and the software allows for “privacy
zones” (windows of apartments, etc.) to be automatically excluded
from video observation. This practice serves not only to protect
private life, but also to protect the employees of CCTV centres
from seeing anything outside their competence. In the Council of
Europe member countries “privacy zones” should by law be defined
and excluded from video surveillance through the use of special
77 At the present time, images from CCTV cameras are stored in
a digital format. The software allows the image to be encoded. Encoding
excludes access of third parties to the stored information and protects
it from unauthorised access and modification. It renders the information
valid for criminal investigations. In Council of Europe member countries
encoding of video data images should be imposed by law.
78 Everyone who is living within the range of video surveillance
(CCTV) has the right to know about it. Therefore, Council of Europe
member countries should guarantee this right by law.
79 Co-operation between government bodies and non-governmental
entities is vital in the sphere of video surveillance.
In order to update its information on the subject matter,
the Council of Europe should hold a conference to supplement its
information on this subject; various experts could be invited:
- persons possessing expertise
on video surveillance, both in the public and private sector;
- representatives of academic institutions and/or monitoring
bodies that have recently carried out studies on such issues as
the impact of video surveillance on crime rate and related privacy
- representatives of specialist Council of Europe expert
committees (CDCJ, Consultative Committee of the Convention for the
Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of
Personal Data – T-PD);
- representatives of a national regulatory or supervisory
authority for the protection of data or privacy;
- representatives of civil society (an association such
as Privacy International).