Video Surveillance of Public Places by Private Individuals

Video Surveillance of Public Places by Private Individuals

Generally speaking, private individuals are not permitted to operate CCTV systems on public property. There are some exceptions to this rule, but only in a very limited number of cases.

A CCTV system that monitors a public area in order to safeguard private interests will record images of countless people and thus infringe their rights to privacy. The persons concerned often have no choice but to enter the monitored area, and are therefore compelled to accept this infringement of their rights to privacy. This is difficult to justify by private interests.

1. Interest in crime prevention: the preservation of security and order in public areas is not the responsibility of private individuals, but a task for the police. For this reason, protecting his or her own security is not a legitimate reason for a private individual to monitor a public area.

2. Other interests: e.g. webcams for the purposes of advertising or entertainment. For such private interests the infringement of privacy rights caused by video surveillance is a step too far, and the interest in safeguarding rights to privacy has priority.

As a result, private CCTV systems in public areas are normally regarded as an excessive and unlawful measure and their installation is prohibited.

Examples 1:

As her property has been vandalised by passers-by on a number of occasions, a house owner wants to install CCTV cameras to monitor the street outside her house. However, the house owner is not permitted to carry out this type of video surveillance herself, as in her case this is the responsibility of the police.

A hotelier sets up a webcam to film the grounds of his hotel. As his interest in doing this does not outweigh the interest in protecting the privacy of those filmed, filming is only permitted if people appearing on the webcam are made unrecognisable and the privacy of the residents of neighbouring houses is guaranteed.

There are possible exceptions to this rule: When legitimate video surveillance of private property is conducted, images of public areas are also recorded. If the extent of this intrusion is negligible and the surveillance of the private property would otherwise be impossible, common sense dictates that surveillance will normally be allowed.  

Examples 2

Example:A bank installs a CCTV camera to monitor its ATMs. In the recordings, a small section of the street outside the building can also be seen. As there is an overriding private interest in monitoring the ATMs and surveillance could not be carried out without filming the street, this is permitted.

Intercom with integrated camera

The purpose of the camera is to identify the person who is currently standing in front of the door. If the camera is only switched on when the button is pressed and the angle is relatively small, then it cannot be assumed that the camera is monitoring public property, even if the intercom is installed outside a building.

Video surveillance in the neighbourhood

My neighbour has installed a video camera. Is this permitted? Is there anything I can do about this? Should I notify the police?

Telecommunications confidentiality and surveillance of telecommunications

The Federal Constitution guarantees the right to privacy, which includes the right to confidentiality of correspondence, post and telecommunications.

Video Surveillance by Private Individuals

When are private individuals allowed to install video surveillance?

Questions on data protection

Take a look at our FAQ or call our hotline.

The main provisions

Here you can find out more about changes to the Data Protection Act, which came into force on 1 September 2023.

Infocenter Data Protection

Legal basis, model letters and more

Last modification 24.07.2023

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