Shaming campaigns can get innocent people caught on camera
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
Dublin City Council was in the headlines in recent days for its new tactic against littering: putting up a large poster of people captured on CCTV illegally dumping in the north inner city.
While the photos were blurry due to the quality of the footage, the people involved could be recognised. According to the council, within hours they had been contacted by one of the people pictured, and dumping had stopped within a day of the poster going up. This might sound like a success story, but there's one drawback: this approach is legally risky and very probably in breach of data protection law. Using CCTV to prevent littering isn't itself a problem. Illegal dumping is a crime and using CCTV to detect and prosecute it will normally be a proportionate response.
While the general rule is that there should be notices warning that CCTV is in operation, even covert surveillance can be justified as a short-term and focused measure in areas where a crime is likely to be carried out.