Surveillance camera system means closed circuit television (CCTV) or automatic number plate recognition systems; any other systems for recording or viewing visual images for surveillance purposes; any systems for storing, receiving, transmitting, processing or checking images or information obtained by such systems; or any other systems associated with or otherwise connected with these systems. Images that identify natural persons, either on their own or when connected with other information are personal data and since CCTV captures what amounts to personal data, the question then arises: ‘how does the Data Protection Laws in Nigeria apply to it?’
No specific provision exist in Nigerian law on the use of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) though it is also a means of collecting personal data. However, Section 1.2 of the Nigerian Communications Commission (Registration of Telephone Subscribers) Regulations 2011 which deals with ‘ all transactions intended for the processing of personal data to actual processing of personal data notwithstanding the means by which the data processing is being conducted or intended to be conducted and in respect of natural persons in Nigeria’ can be extended to the use of CCTV. The CCTV intrudes on personal privacy as it is capable of putting many law-abiding citizens under surveillance by recording their movements as they go about their routine activities. Despite the fact that the use of CCTV has advantages such as crime prevention and detection, health and safety of workers or the public, property security among others, one must consider how it intrudes privacy and where possible, alternative means could be employed to achieve the purpose of the use of the CCTV. The alternatives like improved staff strength and better lightening and where practically impossible, rules must be set in place to guide the use of CCTV.
In the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information from individuals who live in the European Union (EU). Some of the guidelines which could be embraced by Nigeria on the use of CCTV include the location of the CCTV in order to only achieve the purpose for which it is used; storing and viewing the images must be restricted to ensure that the rights of individuals recorded by the CCTV are protected; disclosure of images must be controlled and consistent with the purpose for which the system was established; and retention should reflect the organization’s own purposes for recording images. Storing recorded security footage is now considered the same as storing personal data, therefore our laws must adequately reflect this. In the UK, using CCTV in a way that satisfies the terms of data protection legislation depends on four (4) conditions:
- There must be a genuine reason for installing such a system.
- The purpose for its use must be displayed in a prominent position.
- Signage must be used to inform employees of the location of cameras.
- CCTV footage cannot be used for any purpose other than that stated.
Without getting into the argument for and against the use of CCTV especially as it applies to data protection, one may ask if surveillance is a proportionate response or solution to the problem it seeks to tackle. For instance, the Lagos State Government in her quest to tackle insecurity announced the plan to install 10,000 CCTV cameras across the state, one must consider if monitoring law-abiding citizens and recording their everyday life is justified by the government’s intention to capture the few bad eggs. Wouldn’t increase in security personal and investment in security agencies solve the same problem without invading citizen’s privacy? The position of the camera, especially in corporate organizations, is also a key issues to determine proportionality. Clearly, installing CCTV cameras in toilets or changing rooms may not be said to be proportional to the purpose of the CCTV installation.
No one would like the idea of a ‘Big-Brother Naija’ scenario with the unrestricted use of CCTV, such use must be counter-balanced with strict legislation.
Olusola Alexander Esq. is a prolific writer and consummate commercial practice lawyer. He is a Principal Partner and the Solicitor of the firm. He has specifically handled matters on Digital Privacy, formation of companies, company compliance, vetting of diverse contracts in different fields of law.