UK city's CCTV cameras raise privacy concerns

Jan. 22, 2009
Newcastle shuts off cameras to avoid violating data protection laws

CCTV cameras at a Tyneside flat block are being switched off because of concerns they breach privacy laws.

For years, people living in Maytree House, Elswick, Newcastle, have been able to view who is calling at their door on their TV screens.

But now Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) says data protection laws could be broken if residents, some aged in their 90s, save footage on cassette or digital recorders.

As a result, they are shutting down the system and may be forced to review camera provision at similar addresses across the city.

The news has worried those living in Maytree House, who rely on the devices to monitor visitors and report incidents of anti-social behaviour. Carol Telford, 49, chair of the Maythorn Residents Association, which covers Maytree House and Hawthorn Terrace, said: "The cameras give us peace of mind. It is particularly the case for the elderly residents but even for people my age in fact it is one of the reasons I moved here.

"To get rid of the cameras is just totally ridiculous. If they showed 5-600 yards into the distance I can understand but you can only see the doorway and it is not a very clear picture anyway."

YHN director of tenancy services Neil Scott said: "We appreciate that for people living in Maytree House, and in other similar accommodation across the city, being able to view CCTV in their own homes gives them an added sense of security.

"However, it is our understanding that we are currently in danger of breaking data protection law by supplying tenants with images to their televisions, which could then be recorded.

"We are currently investigating the practical and legal aspects to other options for example re-wiring the CCTV so it only comes on for a short time when visitors call at the block and will keep residents of Maytree House up to date with our plans."

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