What is closed circuit television (CCTV)?
CCTV is a surveillance system in which one or more cameras are connected through a closed circuit. The footage taken by the cameras is sent to a television monitor and/or recorder. CCTV systems consist of cameras, monitors, recorders, interconnecting hardware and support infrastructure.
CCTV as a record
Cameras on CCTV devices have the potential to capture a large amount of records – such as digital images and video recordings of the activities occurring in the surveilled area and often information about the surrounding area.
As CCTV records kept by Victorian Government agencies are public records, agencies must ensure their record keeping practices around CCTV records comply with Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) Standards.
Additionally, CCTV incidents, requests and disclosures should be recorded in a simple and meaningful way. A secure electronic system may be necessary to track incidents, requests and disclosures of footage.
Retention and disposal of CCTV
Agencies usually store CCTV footage on digital media. CCTV footage and records relating to the operation of the CCTV systems are outlined in PROS 07/01 Common Administrative Functions Retention and Disposal Authority.
In most cases, surveillance camera footage is temporary and may be destroyed when administrative use has concluded. Accordingly in such instances agencies can legally erase the CCTV footage from digital media once this a minimum period has expired.
However, when footage is used to investigate and document specific or significant incidents, agencies may need to retain the footage for longer periods. For example, records relating to a death or serious injury in a council provided community service are permanent and must not be destroyed.
Where footage has been provided to a third party (e.g. Victoria Police), it is the third party’s responsibility to retain the record of the footage in accordance with the Disposal Authority that covers their agency’s functional responsibilities.
Other considerations around managing CCTV
Establishing and then operating a CCTV system can be a very complex, time-consuming, costly and resource intensive process. Accordingly, agencies need to ensure they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure the CCTV system operates efficiently and effectively once it is installed.
The Victorian Ombudsman recommends that all public bodies should have a CCTV policy which clearly sets out its use of CCTV in public places.
Compliance with legislation and standards
Agencies should consider seeking legal advice to ensure that their CCTV policy meets legislation requirements. Various types Acts may affect use of CCTV, including:
- Surveillance Devices Act 1999
- Public Records Act 1973
- Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014
- Private Security Act 2004
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (the Charter)
- Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act)
- Evidence Act 2008
Agencies will also need to ensure that their CCTV use complies with any relevant Australian Standards in relation to CCTV.
For further information see Australian Standard AS 4806.1—2006 Closed circuit television (CCTV).
This information was adapted from the Victorian Ombudsman’s Guidelines for developing Closed Circuit Television policies for Victorian Public Sector Bodies.