UK: Staying Safe—Personal Security Technology And The Data Protection Act 1998

Last Updated: 10 February 2016
Article by Amy Lambert and Hazel Grant

IP & IT analysis: Sales in personal security devices are growing apace, but are users sufficiently aware of the implications of these technologies in terms of data protection? Hazel Grant, partner and head of the privacy and information group at Fieldfisher, alongside Amy Lambert, solicitor, and Fiona Morris, trainee solicitor, explain the legal framework surrounding their use and identify a worrying lack of knowledge among the general public.

With security technology from fingerprint scanner to surveillance cameras now being used in private, could there be any legal concerns?

The key issue is the context in which these activities are carried out. There is a difference between using these technologies in a private, domestic context (eg a family safe unlocked by a finger print scanner) and a manner which will fall outside this context (eg using a surveillance camera on your land to film a public area outside your home). In addition, the data collection may be taking place for other legally permitted reasons, such as for reasons relating to national security.

Depending on the nature of the activities and the reasons for processing such data, the user of this technology could qualify as a data controller for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998), regardless of their original intentions. As such, the user would have to comply with a number of requirements under DPA 1998. This could include requiring the user to:

  • register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) as a data controller, and
  • notify any individuals whose fingerprints are being scanned (or who are caught on camera) that their personal data is being collected and how and for what purposes it is being processed

This could place a—perhaps unconsidered—burden on the user. If the user was unaware of their obligations under DPA 1998, or did not comply with them, the user may be liable under DPA 1998 and fined by the ICO.

What about data protection issues if all the information collected through these devices is stored by and available to private persons?

There is no distinction in DPA 1998 between a data controller who is a natural person and one which is a corporate body. If the devices are owned by private persons, but still collect and process personal data for non-exempt purposes, DPA 1998 will be engaged.

All data controllers are obliged to ensure that the security of the personal data is protected by appropriate technical and organisational measures against unlawful or accidental distribution, loss or alteration.

Further, all data subjects have a right to receive a copy of their personal data by way of a subject access request. Under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), expected to be implemented by 2018, data controllers will also have to comply with a data subject's right of rectification (ie a right to amend incorrect information) and right of erasure (ie the 'right to be forgotten'). These responsibilities may place a far greater burden than anticipated on the user.

What are the rights of neighbours or visitors who are within the operating field of a camera or in any other way affected by security technology that collects data?

As set out above, the question of whether DPA 1998 will apply in a private setting will depend on whether the use of the technology will fall within an exemption within DPA 1998. Note that the 'domestic purposes' exemption has also arguably narrowed following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in C-212/13: Rynes v Urad pro ochranu osobnich udaju [2014] All ER (D) 174 (Dec). Here, the CJEU held that the use of surveillance cameras to film a public space could not be viewed as 'purely domestic', and accordingly could not benefit from the household exemption, despite the cameras being privately owned and placed within Mr Rynes' land.     If the technology is capturing data for purposes which are not 'exclusively personal or domestic' (although note that DPA 1998 also permits processing for recreational purposes), or is not exempt for any other reason, the data subject will be entitled to exercise its rights under DPA 1998.

How well are the current legal frameworks equipped to deal with these new technologies and the new problems arising?

There is a query as to whether DPA 1998 (and even the GDPR) will go far enough to create clear exemptions and frameworks for the use of technology which is likely to be employed in a seemingly private context, yet may still expose the user to obligations under DPA 1998. It is also important that users are aware exactly how their technologies functions—with the increase of big-data technologies it is possible that far more information will be collected than the user is aware, which may place both the user and the data subject at risk.

What are the trends in this area and do you have any predictions for the future?

The rapid evolution of technologies and lack of public understanding of the relevant laws suggests that the disconnection between the strict requirements of DPA 1998 and the pragmatic responses that the ICO can reasonably require the public to take will undoubtedly take centre stage in the future. This can only be exacerbated by the potential for new claims for personal distress made possible by the Court of Appeal's judgment in the case of Vidal-Hall and others v Google Inc (The Information Commissioner intervening) [2015] EWCA Civ 311, [2015] All ER (D) 307 (Mar) (currently being appealed).

This article was first published by Lexis Nexis on 26 January 2016

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.