Video Surveillance by Private Individuals

Video Surveillance by Private Individuals

When are private individuals allowed to install
video surveillance?

Where private individuals install CCTV cameras, for example to protect people or deter acts of vandalism, this is governed by the Federal Act on Data Protection if people appearing on the recorded images can be recognised. This is the case irrespective of whether the recordings are saved or not. The processes such as the recording, disclosure, immediate or subsequent viewing or storage of the images must comply with the general principles of data protection.

In order to operate a video surveillance system in compliance with data protection laws, private individuals must observe the following.

1. the recording area must be limited to their own property. Neither the neighbouring property nor the public space (e.g. pavement) may be recorded. 

2. the operation of a video surveillance system must be justified. The safety of persons or the protection of objects is often used as justification (overriding private interest). It must be borne in mind that filmed scenes are by no means always unambiguous. The court decides on a case-by-case basis whether to admit images from private video surveillance systems as evidence.

3. Video surveillance must be proportionate and appropriate. That is, the interference with the privacy of the persons filmed must be in reasonable proportion to the purpose. Thus, only those data may be collected that are necessary for the latter. Also, the images may only be stored for as long as they are actually needed to fulfil the purpose of the video surveillance (usually 24 hours). Measures that have a lesser impact on the private lives of the persons concerned, such as additional locks, reinforcements of entrance doors or alarm systems, are preferable to video surveillance. 

4. Video surveillance must be transparent, i.e. clearly recognisable. The persons concerned must be informed that they are being filmed before they enter the camera's recording area.

5. As few people as possible should have access to the video images, whether they are live or stored (data security and proportionality).

6. In addition, it must be decided whether the purpose of video surveillance means live monitoring is required or whether it is sufficient for the stored data to be viewed in the event of an incident. If viewing after an incident is sufficient, the images should not be viewed unless an incident occurs.

7. Video recordings may only be published if the persons depicted have given their prior consent (right to one's own image). Images showing criminal offences should be handed over to the law enforcement authorities. Anyone who personally posts video surveillance footage online in order to search for suspected perpetrators or to pillory them is acting unlawfully. 

8. If employees are filmed during video surveillance, the requirements of labour law must also be observed. Permanent video surveillance in the workplace is generally prohibited. 

Tips for responsible persons

  • Before installing the cameras, clarify whether the video cameras are suitable to fulfil the security purposes and whether other less intrusiveinvasive measures e.g. alarm systems, doors, motion detector with light system etc. are not possible.
  • Check who will normally be affected by the video surveillance and consult with them to be sure that their interests are taken into account.
  • When selecting cameras, check the technical aspects (e.g. storage location, authorisations, storage duration) as well as possible data protection settings (e.g. privacy filters). If the cameras have an integrated microphone, check whether this can be deactivated before installation. 
  • When choosing a location to mount the camera, make sure that the recording area is limited to the protected object. If necessary, install a physical barrier to limit the camera's angle. 
  • Information about video surveillance should be provided by means of a clearly visible sign. If this is not already clear from the circumstances, the sign should also state who is responsible for the video surveillance, i.e. where the persons concerned can exercise their rights, e.g. obtain information about the data collected. .The installation of video cameras to monitor one's own property is neither regulated by building law nor does it require a special permit (not even from the FDPIC). 

Tips for concerned persons

Transparent information is of central importance because the legislator provides for the legal remedy of civil action in the case of personality violations: Concerned persons must defend themselves against a violation of privacy. Only if they know about the video surveillance can they do something about it. 

  • If you are of the opinion that you are being filmed by the installed camera, you should submit a (written) request for information to the person responsible. In doing so, you can ask whether there are video recordings of you, for what purpose the video surveillance is used, how long the recordings are kept and who all has access to the recordings (Art. 25 FADP). You can also request that the images or film clips containing the recordings relating to you be made available to you.

If you are actually included in the recordings and do not agree with this, you can ask the person responsible to delete the recordings and, if necessary, to adjust the angle of recording or the camera location. We recommend that you first contact the operator of the facility and request that the images be deleted and, if necessary, that the angle of recording or the camera location be changed.

  • If no satisfactory solution can be found, you may take legal action in accordance with Art. 32 para. 2 FADP. You can demand the deletion of the data, a declaration that the video surveillance is unlawful, cessation or adjustment of the surveillance and, if necessary, damages or satisfaction. 
  • No court costs are charged for proceedings concerning disputes under the Data Protection Act (from 1.9.2023). However, this does not apply to any legal fees.
  • The action is governed by Art. 28 of the Swiss Civil Code and begins with an attempt at conciliation before an arbitration authority or justice of the peace. As a first step, you must submit a request for conciliation to the competent court (canton/district). Find out about the formalities of such a submission by telephone or on the website of the competent civil court (court in your place of residence). 
  • An attempt will then be made to find a solution in the course of a hearing. If no agreement can be reached, you will receive a court order and you can file a complaint with the civil court. 
  • You are not obliged to do so, but you can of course consult a lawyer. 
  • As a rule, the police are not responsible for private video surveillance, but only if the video surveillance involves sound or concerns secret or intimate areas. If this applies to your situation, you can also file a criminal complaint with the police. In all other cases, video surveillance is a civil matter and not a matter for the police.
  • There are municipalities whose data protection offices offer counselling or mediation for questions or disputes regarding video surveillance by private individuals that affect public property. The municipality may also be able to help you try to reach a settlement. It may be worthwhile to at least check with the local authority.

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 of Public Places by Private Individuals

Generally speaking, private individuals are not permitted to operate CCTV systems on public property.

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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