It seems that the anomalies which can be found in modern life are expanding exponentially. Last weekend it was reported that “crime maps” on Government websites which identify the locations of local villains are going to be enhanced so that details of crimes, criminals and even photographs will be made available. Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner has taken action against Internet Eyes, a business with a website that rewards members for spotting shoplifters using CCTV footage.

The service is popular in particular with retail outlets and small businesses but has faced a crackdown from the Commissioner on the basis that the CCTV images should be protected as personal data. According to the Deputy Commissioner “A person’s CCTV image is their personal data. The law says that it should only be disclosed where necessary, such as for the purposes of crime detection, and not merely for entertainment”. Of course the Internet Eyes scheme is directly concerned with crime detection but unfortunately some of its footage somehow found its way on to Youtube. Perhaps not surprisingly, the source of the Youtube footage could not be found. Consequently, it is now required to encrypt streaming images and to keep an audit trail for viewer activity as well as ensuring that proper checks are carried out on registered viewers. Presumably they will all have to be registered with the Data Protection Commissioner as well.

The serious message is that businesses need to make sure that their CCTV images are treated as personal data with appropriate safeguards. The wider issue is what on earth all those television documentary makers are going to do now that one of their most fertile sources has been closed.

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