Hong Kong: Guidance on CCTV Surveillance Published

On July 22, 2010, Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) released a Guidance Note on the use of closed circuit television (CCTV) for surveillance purposes. Referring to the data protection principle for the collection of personal data set forth in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, the Guidance Note states that in order to help determine whether CCTV surveillance is necessary, the key question to ask is whether “the use of CCTV in the circumstances of the case [is] justified for the performance of the lawful function and activity of the organization and whether there are less privacy intrusive alternatives.”

The decision to implement CCTV surveillance, the Guidance Note indicates, should entail an objective assessment process to ensure it is the right and proportionate response, by taking such steps as deciding whether there is a pressing need for its use, clearly identifying the problem to be addressed, and collecting relevant information as to whether it will substantially solve the problem. Other topics covered in the Guidance Note are:

    * the positioning of CCTV cameras (e.g., they are not to be placed where people have reason to expect privacy, such as changing rooms, and the capture of detailed facial images is generally not justified) and explicit notification of their presence;
    * proper handling of the recorded images;
    * transfer of the CCTV records to third parties;
    * transparency of the policy and practice of the data users; and
    * regular reviews by the user organizations, in the form of compliance checks and audits, of the effectiveness of the safeguards and procedures for the CCTV system. (Guidance Note, supra.)

In a press release announcing the publication of the Guidance Note, Privacy Commissioner Roderick B. Woo stated, “[w]hen using CCTV in public places, it is our view that a proper balance should be struck between the protection of public interests and personal data privacy. Data users should handle the issue in a fair and transparent manner giving due regards to the rights of personal data privacy.”


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