Not camera shy are you?
If you are a member of anything that keeps a record of you, you will have had or are about to receive a message telling you that new data protection rules coming into force in May mean that you have to be told what your data is held for, who it’s shared with, etc., etc. It may look to some as if the government is actually doing something in the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, but let’s not get too excited. I feel quite sure this will turn out to be yet another legal damp squib which merely serves as window dressing for a hollow man (Yes, I know). Breaches of data protection law are now so rife it would take the Information Commissioner’s Office a millennium to plough through them all – if we could be bothered to complain, of course. A recent case serves to illustrate the point. The UK, being Europe’s most CCTV’d state has 100,000s of CCTV cameras which if they look out onto the street must display a sign alerting passers-by of their existence. But 99.9% of them don’t. So if a camera is pointing towards where you live (an example chosen at random) you should know about it and crucially be able to demand to see any data recorded by it. Your face counts as data, as well as when your image was captured, etc. Perhaps the camera is mounted on a block of flats. So perhaps you write to the Info Comm. to find out what your rights are. A standard response from them will tell you “Our aim is to improve information rights practices. We do this by taking an overview of all concerns that are raised with a view to improving compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). We cannot make individuals or organisations stop using CCTV, or make them reposition their camera. However anyone operating CCTV cameras which capture personal data beyond the boundaries of their private property will have to comply with the DPA.” The Info Comm will send a letter to the camera’s owner, reminding them of their responsibilities. Handily, if the CCTV is mounted on a block of flats, they will send the letter addressed to the ‘Occupier.’ This latter response – for an ‘information commissioner’ – must constitute one of the finer piss takes available in their book of remedies. Nothing will happen. As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, data is to humans what water is to fish. We’ll have to evolve a little bit more before we can struggle out of this sea, but before that could happen I suspect we’ll all be chipped.
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