David Drew MP for Stroud (Labour) has asked the Department for Constitutional Affairs a Parliamentary Question about private CCTV surveillance
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what status privately-owned closed circuit television systems have in relation to data protection; and what rights individuals filmed on public footpaths have to ask (a) to see and (b) to destroy video tape of themselves. 
18 Oct 2006 : Column 1214W
Unfortunately, the Government's Written Answer gives a misleading impression, by neglecting to mention the role of the under resourced Office of the Information Commissioner:
Vera Baird: The Data Protection Act 1998 covers all processing of personal data by automatic means, including those close circuit television (CCTV) systems in public places, or on premises where members of the public may have access, where it is possible for the operator to identify distinct individuals from the film footage. The Act does not apply to CCTV filming purely within a private house/garden, but where the camera's field of operation extends beyond the private property, individuals caught on the film—where it is possible for the operator to distinctly identify them from the footage—have a right of access to the film under s7 of the Act. There is no automatic right to insist on destruction of the film, but individuals have a right, under s10 of the Act, to object to any processing likely to cause damage or distress where such damage or distress is, or would be, unwarranted and this could involve destruction, in appropriate circumstances.
This is a misleading Answer, because it gives the impression, that if, as we hear examples of cases every month, your neighbour buys one of the ever cheaper CCTV camera systems, and fits it at home, overlooking, say, his parked motor vehicle, but does not bother to consult with you or the other neighbours about the field of view of the camera, that you can do something about it legally.
We get examples every month where people really do object to not having been consuilted, especially where such CCTV systems take pictures of their comings and goings from their own properties, and / or which capture images of their children.
The Codes of Practice about the siting of CCTV systems by public authorities do call for such consultations, but they do not apply to private citizens, and they are not legally enforcable.
Under-secretary of State Vera Baird's weasel worded Answer neglects to mention that nobody apart from the Information Commissioner, has the power to prosecute anybody under the Data Protection Act 1998, so it is no use complaining to the Police or to the Local Council or trying for a private prosecution.
How many such Prosecutions are there by the Information Commissioner every year ?
There is a vast range of potential Data Privacy breaches, in all fields which the Information Commissioner is supposed to regulate, and given the fact that there is a deliberately curtailed enforcement budget i.e. even if the Information Commissioner wins a case in Court, and is awarded legal costs, the money goes back to the Treasury, and is not available to help prosecute the next case, then it should come as no surprise that the Information Commissioner brings only about a dozen prosecutions a year - that is for all data protection issues, not for CCTV at all.
So far as we know, they have never prosecuted a case involving CCTV data protection abuses under section 10 of the Act, as mentioned in the Government's Answer above. The Information Commissioner has certainly never ordered, nor got a Court to order, the destruction of any CCTV footage whatsoever.
The Information Commissioner has chosen to interpret the legal precedent of "Durant versus the Financial Services Authority" (.pdf), a case which has nothing to do with CCTV per se, in such a way, that they no longer requre small scale, unsophisticated CCTV systems, without Pan, Tilt, Zoom tracking capabilities, such as are likely to be installed at home, to be Registered on the Register of Data Controllers.
See the ICO 's Obligations towards CCTV systems web page.
Even if you do have such a sophisticated system, then simply patyng an annual fee of £35 and Registerng a "data use" in the Register of Data Controllers, is sufficient to invoke the "coach and horses" exemptions to the Data Protection Act e.g. typically "for the purposes of the detection or prevention of crime", This means that the major legislative weapon in the armoury of the Information Commissioner, is effectively useless in protecting the public from being snooped on by private CCTV cameras, or any other technology.
You cannot write to the "Data Controller" to serve them with a a "data subject access request" under Section 7 Right of access to personal data, or a "data subject notice" under Section 10 Right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress , if they are not offically on the Register of Data Controllers ! You can only complain to the Information Commissioner that the CCTV opeartor should be on this Register but is not, and, the Information Commissioner will then, effectively ignore you.
Remember also, that the Data Protection Act does not prevent a CCTV camera operator from taking the images of you or your children in the first place, and that the operator, not you, owns the Copyright of the images.
We seriously hope that someone can persuade their Local Authority to issue an Anti-Social Behavior Order on a truculent CCTV touting neighbour, but altough several people are considering this, there have, as yet, not been any successful applications.
What the Department for Consitutional Affairs should be doing, is publically consulting on a Privacy Act, which would cover CCTV and other snooping by private citizens and companies, and which would also require the Licensing of CCTV systems and Operators.
Such Licensing, would mean that there are fewer, but better run , properly maintained and less privacy abusive CCTV systems in the UK, which would waste less Police time in major investigations e,g, missing children, murder or terrorism cases etc, where the length of time needed to simply to find out if any there is any relevant CCTV coverage or not, and who to contact to get hold of a copy of it, would be drastically reduced.