Bulletin 41 - The use of closed circuit cameras (CCTV)

Legal issues bulletin 41 - The use of closed circuit television (CCTV)

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Required action before installing CCTV

Principals and other workplace managers should contact the School Security Unit on 1300 88 00 21 to seek expert advice on the installation and use of CCTV surveillance, including where:

  • surveillance of specific areas within schools or offices is proposed during normal operational/business hours
  • after-hours surveillance is considered necessary for school grounds or corporate offices.

The role of CCTV

Schools and corporate offices generally use CCTV in one of three ways:

  • monitoring premises to protect the safety of students and employees
  • monitoring premises during the course of the working day for added security
  • to assist with monitoring sick bays and other specific areas in schools.

The use of CCTV systems

Covert surveillance is prohibited in the workplace unless the surveillance is authorised by a magistrate. Legal Services should be consulted if this is considered necessary.
Non-covert (or "overt") surveillance must not be carried out unless:

  • cameras (or the camera casing or other equipment that indicate the presence of a camera) are clearly visible and
  • signs notifying people that they may be under surveillance are clearly displayed at the entrances to all areas/rooms where CCTV cameras are used.

Surveillance in change rooms, locker rooms, toilets, showers and other bathing facilities located in workplaces is prohibited in all circumstances.

Providing written notice to the school community

In addition to clear signage, prior written notice of the intended use of CCTV cameras must be given to employees and other members of the school community. With employees, this notice must be provided at least 14 days' prior to the commencement of CCTV surveillance.
The written notice (by letter or email) must state:

  • that CCTV surveillance is to be carried out at the school
  • the date the CCTV surveillance will commence, and whether it will be for a limited period (such as an initial trial period) or ongoing
  • the purpose of the CCTV surveillance for example to protect the safety of students, employees and visitors at the school, including in:
    • deterring the commission of unlawful activity on the school's premises
    • investigating any allegation or reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity on school premises
    • taking criminal, civil or disciplinary action in relation to any allegation or reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity on school premises or
    • protecting the safety of other people on school premises, including parents, carers and members of the community
  • the CCTV footage is being collected by the school (the notice will provide the school's address)
  • the footage will be held by the school or other unit of the department
  • the footage may be disclosed to any person undertaking an investigation or taking civil or disciplinary action on behalf of the department, or to a court, in relation to any allegations of, or reasonable suspicion of, unlawful activity on school premises
  • the footage may be provided to the police or another enforcement agency for the purposes of investigating criminal behaviour, and prosecution and
  • any individual whose personal information is included in any CCTV footage recorded at the school may apply for access to that footage.

The school's Parents and Citizens Association and School Council should also be advised of the details of the surveillance.

Privacy laws and access to footage

CCTV footage, to the extent it contains images of people (including children) whose identity will be apparent or reasonably ascertainable from the footage, is "personal information".
Privacy law applies to CCTV footage collected, used and disclosed by the department.
The department must, at the request of an individual to whom it relates, provide the individual with access to CCTV footage containing their image unless there is an overriding public interest against providing such access.
Third parties may also seek access to footage under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA Act). The usual procedures for GIPA Act requests apply and enquiries regarding those requests should be directed to the Information Access Unit by email to IAUnit@det.nsw.edu.au.

Audio surveillance

Additional legal obligations apply if CCTV cameras can also record sound, known as "listening devices" at law. These obligations apply even if sound recording is not intended to be used.

  • it must be expressly stated in the written notice provided to the school community (see above) that audio will be recorded
  • it must be expressly stated that both images and audio will be recorded in clearly visible signs at the entrances to all areas/rooms where listening devices are used and
  • schools must ensure listening devices are not used in areas where private conversations are more likely to occur (such as counselling offices) but rather restrict their use to more public areas such as corridors.

Record keeping

Schools and corporate offices must ensure compliance the department's records management policies, procedures and standards when storing any footage and audio recorded on CCTV cameras or listening devices.

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