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Do you need a sign if you have security cameras



*Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. For any legal advice or considerations, it is best to seek professional guidance.

Security Systems can be a useful tool for protecting your premises, discourage illegal activity, and prevent theft. However, when installing CCTV, legally, you must have a clear and concise reason for collecting this information. Be sure to clearly define your reason for surveillance and exactly what information you wish to collect. 

Businesses who operate CCTVs are obligated by legislation to inform the public that they are collecting personal data. The most effective way of doing this is to display signs in the area of surveillance. Provide awareness that they are on camera, why you are collecting this information, how you intend to use it, and how it will be stored.

In New Zealand, there are laws to be aware of and abide by if you’re planning on setting up security cameras, whether it be at home to watch over your car or on your business premises to deter the temptation of thieves. Make sure you are clued in to all the relevant rules and regulations.

What are my privacy obligations regarding CCTV cameras in New Zealand?

Before you take the plunge to install surveillance around your premises, it’s a good idea to become acquainted with the Privacy Act 1993 and any local laws you need to be familiar with. If you are unable to comply with your obligations under this law, you or your business could face legal repercussions, so it’s best to stay ahead of the game.

If you are capturing images of people, this is automatically classified as personal data or information. Once your business deals with public information, it becomes an “agency” and is potentially liable under privacy law. Personal information is anything that can identify a person; this can range from people’s full names and addresses to their faces or identifying characteristics in images or footage. 

For this reason, there are rules you need to follow to govern how you:

Collect information

The first thing to do before you install surveillance is to determine your purpose for collecting this information. You need to inform people of your clear purpose and that you are collecting this information directly from them. You can only collect any personal data that is necessary for your purpose and it cannot be collected in an intrusive or unlawful way.

Store Information

You need to determine a safe and secure method for storing the personal data you are collecting. The person whose data you collect should be able to access and correct that data should they require it. You have an obligation to ensure the data you are collecting is accurate and you must not keep it for longer than is necessary.

Use Information

The way you use your information can only relate to the initial reason for collecting the data. For example, if you collect surveillance footage for health and safety reasons, that footage cannot be used in a disciplinary hearing of an employee.

Disclose Information

The only reason you can share the data you have collected with others is if that was the purpose you collect the information for. For instance, if you recorded data for evidence of theft, this information can be passed on to the police, but can not be shared in other forums.

When does surveillance become an invasion of privacy?

If someone believes that you or your business has breached their privacy by recording them without following their obligations under relevant privacy laws, then they can complain to the Privacy Commission. Signage may not prevent individuals from complaining to the Privacy Commissioner if they feel their rights under the Act have been breached, although ensuring you have taken reasonable steps to meet your obligations can go a long way toward helping you in any case against you.

What happens if you record someone without them knowing?

Once someone has reported you or your business to the Privacy Commission, the commission can then launch an investigation into your business and how your CCTV cameras are managed. Penalties for any breach can depend upon the severity of it, whether you have initially taken measures to comply with the Privacy Act 1993 including clearly defined reasons for the surveillance and evidence that you informed the public of the data collection. It is best to seek professional guidance in any proceedings or investigations as legal matters can have serious ramifications. This could be the difference between only receiving compliance notices versus being charged a hefty penalty.


What signage is required for CCTV?

The most common way to inform people they are under surveillance is to place signs prominently in the area that the cameras capture and also before those people reach that area. They should be prominently displayed and frequent, particularly if the CCTV cameras you are using are discreet or located in areas where people would not normally expect to be under surveillance.

Here are a few points to consider when putting up your signage:

  • The signage you use should be clearly readable and visible. 
  • It should show details of the organisation operating the system, the purpose of its use, and who to contact if they have any queries.
  • The sign should be an appropriate size in relation to its placement and who will be looking for it. If it needs to be seen by someone driving in a car, then a larger sign is appropriate; if it’s being kept in a shop then a smaller one will suffice.
  • Staff members on site should know what to do and who to contact should a member of the public enquire about the surveillance. 
  • Be careful with the positioning of the security camera to be sure it captures your property only and doesn’t extend onto public property.
  • Your video surveillance signage should be visible across the whole coverage area.

If you are unsure about what signage is required and where to position it, the best thing to do is seek expert advice with us at CCTV Solutions or visit the Privacy Commissioner's website.

Are Hidden Cameras Legal?

Planting hidden cameras in New Zealand is considered illegal. For CCTV cameras to be legal, they would need to notify those they are collecting data from and have a clear outline of the reason behind the surveillance.


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