Video Surveillance & CCTV

It is impossible for us to say what is and is not legal when it comes to CCTV and video, we do not have the legal knowledge and we can find no clear definitions and guidelines on the web. What is clear is the laws affecting these things seem to be evolving as the technology evolves, web cams, public surveillance, phone cams etc. are forcing the relevant authorities to write and rewrite the law with every new court challenge and it appears that if there is an issue regarding videoing and filming it is in the courts where rights and wrongs are tested.

If you are planning on installing CCTV the application of common sense would be well advised, i.e. do not set up a camera to film or record where a person could reasonably expect privacy, if your CCTV only films your property or the public space in front of you property there is probably not going to be much of a case to answer if your neighbour complains but if you have it set them up to film or record their property or house expect them to be upset (you would be) and to take steps to stop you. If you live in a block of units or flats it would probably be advisable to talk with the body corporate and or your lawyer about what you can and can't do. It would also be advisable (and polite) to place a clearly visible notice at the entrance to the property stating that CCTV is in use, this avoids somebody entering the property claiming they were not warned.

In general CCTV surveillance – whether it is internal (within the house) or external (monitoring the grounds around the house) - is a matter of privacy. If you cross the line between monitoring your own property and somebody else’s property or your surveillance could be considered to be intrusive you could expect problems.

There is at present nothing illegal about home surveillance in Australia however in the following situations breaches of the law (or potential for legal action) may arise if:

  • The installation of the cameras is the result of a neighbourhood dispute involving threatening behaviour, in which case an apprehended violence order may call for the cameras to be removed.

  • The surveillance is of such intensity that it is creating a nuisance, preventing someone from the enjoyment of their property.

  • The area being monitored is one where someone would reasonably expect to have privacy, such as a bedroom or bathroom

  • The surveillance is of a criminal or voyeuristic nature.

If you install CCTV cameras, make sure that:

  • They are only monitoring your property.

  • If they are overlooking the street, there is a sign informing people they are being monitored.

  • They are not monitoring areas where people could reasonably expect privacy.

  • If they are monitoring a strata titled home or apartment, you have permission from the body corporate to do so.

 

The following information is for NSW with links for other states at the bottom of the page. If readers have any relevant information on other states we would be interested to hear of it and you can contact us here.


NSW

The following article is © State of New South Wales through the Department of Attorney General and Justice


My neighbour has set up a video camera that looks onto my property. Is this lawful?

There are currently no laws that specifically restrict the use of surveillance systems in residential settings. Where a home is also a “workplace”, you should look at the Workplace Surveillance Act. If voyeurism is involved see Division 15B of the Crimes Act1900 (see below).

It is possible that the installation of surveillance cameras that intrude on the privacy of neighbours is a planning issue that could be regulated under councils’ development control powers. However the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act does not clearly support such a position. We are not aware of any council that has attempted to deal with this issue through the use of its development control powers. You may however wish to contact your local council for further advice on this issue.

If video surveillance has reached a high level of intensity, you may be able to make a common law claim of nuisance on the basis of unreasonable interference with the enjoyment of your property. We are aware of one local case (Raciti v Hughes, unreported, NSW Supreme Court, 1995) where the Supreme Court granted an interim injunction to a neighbour to restrain the intrusive use of a video camera. However taking legal action can be an expensive and uncertain process. We would certainly not recommend that you begin such action without strong supporting legal advice.

If the installation of the cameras has taken place in the context of a wider dispute involving threatening behaviour, you may be able to have the issue addressed in the context of an application for an apprehended violence order. If such an application is made, the magistrate has the power to make ancillary orders to defuse the likelihood of violence. This could include for example an order to remove a surveillance camera.

We also note that Crimes Act1900 now has a separate division "Voyeurism and related offences" (Division 15B) which may be relevant if voyeurism and the like is involved. You should obtain legal advice on whether this Division may apply to actions of your neighbours.

Privacy NSW has the power to investigate and seek to conciliate a complaint about conduct that interferes with an individual’s privacy generally. However if the person complained about refuses to compromise, the action we can take is limited.

Alternatively you could try to have the matter resolved by way of mediation through your local Community Justice Centre. For details of this process, please contact the Community Justice Centres on 1800 990 777.


Helpful Links

Please note
much of the information available refers to workplaces, public spaces and privacy in general and is not specific to domestic situations.

All States

What can I do about my neighbour's security camera?
Australian Privacy Foundation
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Photos and surveillance

 

NSW

SURVEILLANCE DEVICES ACT 2007
NSW Photo Rights - Australian street photography legal issues


Victoria

Surveillance Devices Act (Vic)
Private Lives PDF
CCTV and Privacy: Challenges facing Owners
Corporations and Strata Companies
SURVEILLANCE AND PRIVACY

 

Queensland

Invasion of Privacy Act 1971
Information Commissioner (OIC) - Privacy Compliance and CCTV

 

Tasmania

Policing Requirements for Closed Circuit Television
LISTENING DEVICES ACT 1991

 

Northern Teritory

CCTV Code of Practice

 

ACT

LISTENING DEVICES ACT 1992
 

WA

SURVEILLANCE DEVICES ACT 1998
Western Australia
Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Guidelines

 

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