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Leaflet on video surveillance by private individuals

When private individuals use video cameras, for example to protect individuals or prevent material damage, this is subject to the federal law of 19th June 1992 on data protection (DPL; SR 235.1) when the images filmed show identified or identifiable individuals. This applies irrespective of whether the images are stored or not. The processing of the images – such as acquisition, release, immediate or subsequent viewing or archiving – must comply with the general principles of data protection.

This information sheet refers to video surveillance by private individuals on private premises irrespective of whether these are accessible to the public or not. It does not apply to video surveillance at the workplace. You can find information in this respect in the Swiss Federal Data Protection Commissioner’s 4th Annual Report, Chapter I, 4.2.


Video surveillance systems are only permitted when the following two conditions are fulfilled:

1. Video surveillance may only be used when this breach of privacy is justified by the agreement of the individuals concerned, by a superior public or private interest, or by a law (legality principle).

Example:
A jeweller has a private interest that no burglary is committed during his absence.

2. The video surveillance must be appropriate and necessary to achieve the express objective of security, in particular the protection of persons and/or objects. It may only be used when other measures that intrude less on the privacy of the individual such as additional locks, reinforced doors or alarm systems prove insufficient or impracticable (principle of proportionality).

Example:
In general video cameras in a multi-storey car park are allowed as they can prevent vandalism.

The requirements for the installation and operation of video surveillance equipment are detailed overleaf.

Further information on data protection under www.edsb.ch. You may also contact the Swiss Federal Data Protection Commissioner directly,
3003 Berne, Tel. 031 322 43 95, Fax. 031 325 99 96, info@edsb.ch


The following rules must be complied with when installing and operating a video surveillance system:

1. The persons responsible for the videosurveillance must inform everyone entering the film range of the camera about the surveillance system with a clearly visible sign. If the images taken are linked with a data collection the sign must indicate who to contact, if someone wants to press his right to information, if this is not clear from the circumstances (principle of good faith and right to information).

Example:
At the entrance to a residential block, the notice must be clearly visible to everyone entering the house.

2. The person responsible must protect the personal data by technical and organisational measures against every unauthorised processing (data security).

Example:
Only authorised persons may see the screens. The data retained must be stored in a secured, locked room to which only the authorised persons have the key.

3. The video camera must be set up so that only the images absolutely necessary for the express purpose appear in its filming range (principle of proportionality).

Example:
In the surveillance of an apartment block, it should not be possible to see who enters which flat.

4. The data may only be used for the protection of persons and property and not for any other purpose (purpose related principle).

Example:
A sales outlet may not use security footage for marketingpurposes.

5. The identity of the persons filmed may not be disclosed except in the cases foreseen or permitted by law e.g. in the case of a demand issued by a judge (purpose related principle).

Example:
The sales outlet may not either give or sell the images filmed to third parties.

6. The images taken with a camera must be deleted within a short time. Normally, material damage or personal injury is established immediately or within a few hours. According to purpose a period of 24 hours appears sufficient insofar as nothing of note occurs during this period. In the case of video surveillance in private premises that are not accessible to the public this period may, in certain cases, be longer (principle of proportionality).

Example:
In the case of holiday absence films can, exceptionally, be kept longer, but must be deleted as soon as possible after the return of the person responsible.

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Leaflet as pdf-file
SDPC - Swiss Federal Data Protection Commissioner