Surveillance Camera Commissioner warns against blanket use of CCTV recording in taxis and PHVs

Blanket use of CCTV recording in taxis and private hire vehicles would be disproportionate and should be imposed only where a strong justification exists, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner has said.

In a response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on statutory guidance for taxi and private hire vehicles licensing authorities, the commissioner said the blanket requirement for taxis in Rotherham to have CCTV installed – imposed after some drivers were involved in the town’s child sexual exploitation scandal – had been on the basis of “persuasive evidence “ but he would not expect “widespread installation of CCTV in taxis without well evidenced justifications”.

Audio recording of passengers’ private conversations “is extremely intrusive and requires strong justification”, the response said.

The commissioner said clear evidence of public consultation should be available before any final decision about installation of CCTV is made by a local licensing authority and this should involve members of the public, taxi drivers, police and any relevant regulators.

Local authorities must also complete a data protection impact assessment prior to requiring installation of CCTV in taxis and have consulted their data protection officer and legal teams.

The commissioner said there must also be a facility to switch off recording when the vehicle is being used for the driver’s private purposes.

Clear policies and procedures should in place regarding how the CCTV system is used and who can access the footage it records. Where connected to the internet they must also be cyber secure.

Despite austerity pressures on councils “he would not expect that substandard systems are installed to save money particularly if the justification of the system is passenger and driver safety”.

The DfT is analysing responses to the consultation, which began in February.

Mark Smulian

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