The Telegraph reports that CCTV has been used at a National Trust Restaurant to film and record private conversations of diners. A woman who, with her family, visited the Manor Restaurant in Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire discovered that their meal had been surveilled in this way after she wrote to complain about poor food and slow service.
But she was left astonished by the restaurant's response. Simon Offen, the catering manager, emailed her to say he disputed her version of events after he had "watched and listened with interest to the video recording of her table".
Increasingly CCTV is appearing around the country with the ability to record sound as well as images. This flies in the face of published guidelines. Last year the Information Commissioner's Office released a revised CCTV code of practice in which the issue of recording conversations was highlighted. The code states:
CCTV must not be used to record conversations between members of the public as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified. You should choose a system without this facility if possible. If your system comes equipped with a sound recording facility then you should turn this off or disable it in some other way.
Yet signs, such as the one below, warning people that sound is being recorded are becoming increasingly
common. Action must be taken now to stop this extension of already intrusive surveillance equipment. If you are aware of an establishment that either records sound or states that it records sound then you should contact them and tell them they are breaching the CCTV code of practice. If they do not take steps to remove sound recording or correct their signs then you should visit the Information Commissioner's Office and complete a complaint form. The CCTV code of practice is based on data protection principles laid out in the Data Protection Act.
In 2007 the CCTV advisory body CameraWatch stated that 90% of surveillance cameras may be breaching the Data Protection Act. Clearly the code of practice is currently not being enforced. Perhaps if enough complaints were received from privacy conscious members of the public things would change.