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CCTV in taxis - What is the law on continuous recording?

CCTV systems installed in taxis and private hire vehicles is becoming an increasingly common feature. An increasing amount of councils are either allowing CCTV cameras to be installed or making it a mandatory requirement as a way to combat crime, to protect drivers and vulnerable passengers.

The Information Commissioner (ICO) recently reported that they have seen an increase in cases of CCTV in taxis and more particularly, taxi CCTV systems that continuously record.

Continuous recording CCTV systems are systems that start recording whenever a vehicle is running and continues to record until the vehicle engine is switched off. 

When a taxi or private hire vehicle is used privately (i.e. not for hire or reward), the CCTV system continues to record.

Is continuous recording CCTV systems installed in taxis lawful?

As a starting point, capturing a person’s movements on camera is accepted as particularly intrusive and as such subject to strict data protection rules and human rights law. The legislation referred to specifies that information captured and processed via CCTV must, among other things, be necessary and proportionate.

When a taxi or private hire driver is working, clearly the use of CCTV would be proportionate and arguably necessary in light of its purpose; to combat crime, to protect drivers and vulnerable passengers.

However, when a taxi or private hire driver is off duty, the continued use of CCTV recording is likely to be unlawful, unfair and excessive in light of data protection and human rights legislation.

The ICO’s view is that in most instances, continuous recording CCTV systems in taxis and private hire vehicles are unlawful.

Licensed holders need to take steps to protect themselves from complaints of excessive use of CCTV systems in their licensed vehicles. The use of CCTV in taxis must be limited to instances where it is necessary and proportionate. As such, CCTV should only be recording when you are working and switched off then you are off duty.

Additionally, cases where CCTV systems in taxis are a mandatory requirement, the ICO’s view is that the relevant data controller is the council not the individual vehicle licence holder. In other words, in most circumstances where a council instructs CCTV systems to be installed, the instructing council will be responsible for controlling and processing the data even though it is being recorded in a taxi or private hire vehicle.

Taxi Defence Barristers act for taxi and private hire licence holders who are facing difficulties with their licences – Licence revocations, refusals, suspension and all criminal matters. 

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