Retailers have been warned they must adhere to new guidelines governing the use of CCTV to ensure that cameras do not infringe on people's rights to privacy.
Failure to adhere to the guidelines, produced by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in accordance with the Data Protection Act, could result in penalties from the ICO and film being inadmissible as evidence in court.
The code requires operators to carry out an "impact assessment" to judge whether installing CCTV is justified, or if other "less privacy-intrusive" solutions could be used instead.
The results of the assessment should then be used to inform the operator of the type of system to install, and the location and number of cameras. When using CCTV to deter and detect crime, the code states that cameras should be located in "problem spots" only.
For example, CCTV installed to prevent shoplifters should never be used for non-criminal matters such as monitoring employees. The report says that continuous monitoring of employees is "intrusive and disproportionate" and should be used in exceptional circumstances only. At the same time, cameras should only capture images of people visiting the premises.
Clear signage that CCTV is being used must be displayed clearly throughout a premises, particularly in areas where cameras are discreet. Cameras must never be used to record conversations between members of the public.
The guidelines cover the storage of recordings, too. Images should be stored securely, in a place where only a limited number of authorised people may have access to them.
Recorded images should also be stored only long enough for an incident to come to light, and then for it to be investigated. Regular maintenance of CCTV systems must also be carried out to ensure that date and time stamps are accurate.