CCTV in the European Union

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is the topic of much consideration and controversy across Europe. Over the last four decades, use of CCTV technology has skyrocketed in public spaces throughout Europe. For instance, in the UK alone, it’s estimated that over the last ten years, around £250 million of public money has been spent on CCTV expansion. Analysts have found that the sales value of the UK CCTV market increased to £1.1 billion per year by 2008. Estimates suggest that there may be one camera for every fourteen people living in the UK.

What is CCTV?

CCTV is a system in which the circuit is closed, and all elements are directly connected.

You might be familiar with CCTV in some of the following every day applications:

  • Monitoring traffic on a bridge or stretch of highway
  • Time lapse recording for animation
  • Use at a sports event, in a stadium
  • Hidden in busses or on trains to deter vandalism
  • Aerial photography
  • Production control in a factory

One of the most common uses of CCTV is as a means of crime control. Somewhat professional evaluations, which refer to analyses of crime statistics, allege that CCTV is effective at this objective. Criminologists have challenged this position, arguing that one should never assume that CCTV can have an effect on reducing crime, regardless of the mechanisms under which it is expected to work, and the environmental context in which it is embedded.

Public Opinion

According to the Urbaneye Project, around two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement that “who has nothing to hide, has nothing to fear from CCTV,” over 50% felt that footage could easily be misused, while 40% felt that “CCTV invades privacy.” Researchers found that, “Although people do not know much about CCTV, its growing presence in urban space has become part of their consciousness – they are feeling the gaze rather than seeing the eye.”

The Urbaneye Project found two major trends regarding the public’s interaction with CCTV. First, CCTV is undoubtedly a part of daily life in Europe. While most public spaces operate CCTV surveillance systems which are often not notified, the majority of these systems are small and isolated, with poor technological standards that are more for deterrence, rather than actual surveillance. The second trend is towards an integration and digitalization of larger systems.

Legal Framework

Regulation of CCTV use in Europe is vague at best. Article 8 of the Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms describes the right to privacy, while the Convention on the Automated Processing of Personal Data of the Council of Europe is also relevant. Another significant regulation is the European Union’s Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC), although it does not apply to CCTV surveillance for national security, public safety and criminal investigation.

It’s important to recognize that legal regulation of CCTV varies greatly across Europe. Use of the technology is regulated by federal and state data protection acts; police laws and codes of criminal procedure; specific laws on video surveillance; and special regulations for different locations, such as banks or sports stadiums. Within Europe, CCTV is, for the most part, regulated in the context of privacy and data protection.

There are a number of national provisions which specifically address CCTV:

  • Denmark: Consolidation Act No. 76 of 1 February 2000 bans video surveillance. There are some exceptions to this prohibition.
  • Germany: Section 6b of the Federal Data Protection Act governs the deployment of CCTV by private entities and federal authorities, but does not include the police or secret services.
  • Norway: Chapter VII in the Personal Data Act No. 31 of 14 April 2000.
  • Spain: Ley organica No. 4/1997 discusses video surveillance by security agencies in public areas.
  • United Kingdom: Section 163 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 regulates local authority powers to provide CCTV. The UK also has the CCTV Code of Practice 2000, which clarifies general provisions of the Data Protection Act of 1998.


This article takes a look at CCTV surveillance in Europe. Studies revealed that a growing number of publicly accessible spaces have CCTV systems that are often not well-notified. Although the majority of people are mostly uninformed about CCTV and the inherent privacy issues, the majority of them support CCTV as a means of crime deterrence. The article also examines the legal framework that regulates CCTV use in Europe.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe (CIPP/E) exam, a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Legislative framework in Europe (I.C.)
  • EU Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) (I.C.b.)
  • Closed-circuit television (CCTV) (III.B.b.)

1 comment to CCTV in the European Union

  • James Rice

    Is the data produced by CCTV required,by law, to be stored for any specific length of time? I am specifically referring to CCTV data taken by cameras in a large shopping mall , shops inside the mall and the shopping center car park. Would any such length of time be uniform through out the EU or does it vary from country to country.The country I am interested in is Portugal. I hope you can help me or perhaps advise me where to research.
    James Rice

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