Data row after Huntingdon CCTV footage used by TV firm

HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council has been accused of breaching the Data Protection Act by allowing a film company to use its CCTV cameras.

HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council has been accused of breaching the Data Protection Act by allowing a film company to use its CCTV cameras.

Films of Record posted notices along Huntingdon High Street on Saturday (May 29) stating that it would be using HDC’s CCTV cameras for a Channel 4 show.

However, Brampton resident Graham Shirra, who was in Huntingdon on Saturday, said this was a clear breach of the Data Protection Act.

In a letter to HDC’s Director of Environmental and Community Services, which he also sent to the The Hunts Post, Mr Shirra said he did not understand why a private company had been permitted to use HDC’s CCTV system.

He added: “I believe that HDC has broken the Data Protection Act by making data from the CCTV system available.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, says in its CCTV Code of Practice that “it would not be appropriate to disclose images of identifiable individuals to the media for entertainment purposes”.

Most Read

The council’s own code also states: “Under no circumstances will any recorded data, either in digital, video or still form, be released…to any organisation for use as entertainment or inclusion in any television or other media production designed purely for entertainment purposes.”

Films of Record has been working on the Channel 4 project CCTV Symphony for more than a year.

Eve Kay, executive producer at Films of Record said: “The aim of the project is to get people to look afresh at the role of CCTV in our lives while educating and informing them about what CCTV does and the role it plays in our society. This project is not entertainment but has the aim of educating and informing people about CCTV.”

The production company was asked to make a short pilot as part of a “research phase”, which will not be broadcast.

Mrs Kay said: “The purpose of the pilot was to explore how we might work with a number of organisations to make this film, complying with all the necessary legislation (in particular data protection).

“This was what we were doing in Huntingdon.

“We have been aware from the beginning of the project that there are legal issues, in particular data protection obligations, that need to be taken into account for this project. For this reason we have been working closely with the Information Commissioners’ Office and a small number of councils to develop systems and protocols that ensure that at all times everyone is complying with their obligations and responsibilities under data protection law.”

She said that the ICO had “recognised that there is value” to what they are doing and confirmed their support in writing.

Mrs Kay added: “In both the pilot and the final film, we will not be using any footage from the Huntingdon CCTV system where the people featured in the footage have not given their written consent.”

Robert Ward, head of operational services, said: “HDC is participating in the channel 4 CCTV project, which is seeking to educate and inform people about CCTV in general. It is not intended as entertainment. The filming is for a non broadcast pilot that will be used to assess whether a fuller programme could be made.

“HDC will only participate in any final filming if the council feels that the film has a positive educational value, and the Information Commissioner agrees to the use of images for this purpose.

“Any images released to the company for making the pilot film will be covered by a detailed agreement in respect of their use in compliance with data protection requirements, including a prohibition on public broadcast.”