Taxi drivers and their passengers want to feel safe when travelling but at the same time they don’t what to feel spied on. Drivers don’t want to be driving their vehicles in their own time with their images and conversations being recorded. Likewise, passengers wouldn’t want to be recorded either. Although, both parties may want recording when there is an incident – there’s a balance to be struck between driver and passenger safety and serious intrusion into their private lives.
It’s a topical and sometimes emotive issue and it’s been around for some time. In 2009 the Information Commissioner’s Office took enforcement action on Southampton City Council who’d introduced a blanket policy of CCTV with audio recording in taxis. It was action that was upheld by a tribunal.
It was still an issue in 2015 when I spoke at the National Taxi Associations’ AGM. At this event taxi drivers reached out to me with concerns about disproportionate licensing by the councils where they drove their taxis.
CCTV in taxis is an area where my office and I have worked closely with the ICO over the past few years – I informed them of the issues raised at the conference I just mentioned. You may have seen the Information Commissioner’s recent helpful blog on the use of CCTV in taxis. The focus of the blog was CCTV use in relation to data protection legislation – understandable given the ICOs remit in this area.
Of course local authorities have other legislation that they must consider and comply with when operating surveillance cameras in taxis. Section 33(1) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) sets out that relevant authorities – local authorities and police forces – must have due regard to the Home Secretary’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.
The Code sets out the Government’s position here, namely that it is fully supportive of the use of surveillance cameras where there’s a legitimate aim and pressing need, where their use is proportionate and effective and where the use of surveillance cameras comply with all relevant legislation. As seen in the example of Southampton the ICO can issue hefty fines or stop organisations using surveillance cameras.
It’s also worth considering section 33(3) of PoFA – that the Code is admissible in evidence in criminal and civil proceedings and section 33(4) goes on to say that where the Code hasn’t been given due regard a court or tribunal should take this into account. Essentially, failure to comply with the Code may be detrimental to the use of CCTV evidence in court as this may be raised within disclosure to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and may be taken into account. The CPS is currently updating their disclosure manual to reflect this and I blogged about this a few weeks ago. Imagine a serious incident involving a driver or passenger captured on CCTV but that footage being dismissed because the Code was given no attention when installing and operating the system!
So, I completely get why councils are looking at CCTV in taxis as a way to protect taxi drivers. No one should ever be subject to physical or verbal abuse when they’re at work. Likewise, passengers should be happy in the knowledge that they’re safe when using taxis.
However, decision makers at councils should be thinking is CCTV the right solution to the problem they’re trying to solve? Is it a proportionate response and effective or is there a less intrusive option which may be more effective? My buyers’ toolkit and passport to compliance documents can help you here.
If you decide CCTV is the route you wish to go down then as the Information Commissioner said in her blog you must carry out a data protection impact assessment – you can find a surveillance camera specific template (due to be updated in September 2018) on my website. Once the system is in use you can use my self-assessment tool to see how you’re complying with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. And if you really want to show your communities how you’re complying with relevant legislation there’s my third party certification mark!
My team and I are always on hand to provide and support to navigate the sometimes tricky regulatory framework and keep local authorities in the picture on what they need to do to comply. Get in touch if you have any questions or comment below.