Neighbor Taking Pictures of my Backyard

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What are our rights in a neighbourhood full of cameras? Photo by Michael Tuszynski from Pexels

Security cameras are everywhere. Once upon a time they were restricted to business premises or city centres but nowadays any Tom, Dick or Harry can buy one.

As the number of security cameras grows, so are concerns for our privacy and so in this article I try to answer some basic questions that people have about security cameras in their neighbourhood.

Neighbor taking pictures of my backyard

Do you feel as though your neighbor is watching you? Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

Have you ever wondered if your nosy neighbor is allowed or permitted to take pictures of your backyard without your consent

Well, it might interest you to know that your neighbor can take pictures of your backyard as long as he/she is not standing on your property. Suffice to say that, your neighbor can take pictures of your backyard as long as your backyard is in public view and your neighbor was standing on a public property or a place where he/she is permitted by law to stand. 

However, in a situation where this occurs consistently, and you’re becoming agitated or unsure of the intent of such pictures, you can file for an injunction or temporary restraining order against your neighbor at your local prosecutor’s office. You can also seek advice from a local police officer in your neighborhood. You can also file a complaint for harassment if you feel that the photos are getting too much and your neighbor is not likely to stop anytime soon. 

At any rate, if you could prove that the photos are used for unpleasant purposes, you can press charges against your neighbor. 

Neighbor has security camera pointed at my house

Have you got a security camera pointed at your home? Photo by Milly Eaton from Pexels

I’m sure you’re familiar with this scenario. Your neighbor installs a security camera or CCTV camera and points it at your house, and you’re wondering if that’s actually right. Or on the flip side, you just installed a security surveillance camera outside your house, and you’re wondering if you could point the lens in the direction of your neighbor’s house. 

Well, here’s the deal, your neighbor has the legal right to install CCTV cameras on his property and point the lens towards any area that is in view of the public including your backyard, driveway or front door. I know you value your privacy, and most times, it feels uncomfortable having the feeling that someone is spying on you. Regardless, there are strict laws regulating the use of information gotten from those security cameras.

You may still not have a claim even if the surveillance camera installed by your neighbor only captures your backyard or front door in its field of view and does not pick any of your neighbor’s property as part of a broader view. If you spend a lot of time at your backyard, this could be a major turn-off. 

Notwithstanding, here are some solutions you could consider;

First, have a friendly conversation with your neighbor, perhaps he has a misconception about you. Maybe he thinks you were responsible for an item that got missing in his backyard. Second, you can plant trees to cover your backyard so you can have your privacy. 

Better still, install your own surveillance cameras and point it towards the direction of your neighbor’s house, his backyard, his front door and everywhere around his house, I’m sure he will be more than willing to have an understanding regarding the use of cameras with you.

Laws on neighbor’s CCTV cameras

What are the laws relating to CCTV and data?

Do you know that when your neighbor installs CCTV cameras, they are required to comply with data protection laws? 

The act of filming or capturing images with the CCTV camera itself does not amount to a breach of data protection laws; however, when CCTV cameras capture other people outside the property of the users, they’ll need to ensure that the data protection rights of these individuals are not breached. 

So when next you observe that the coverage of your neighbor’s CCTV camera extends toward your immediate environment and records part of your surroundings including you or any of your family members, then you should know that you have the following rights under the data protection law;

  1. You have the right to be informed that CCTV cameras are being used. Your neighbor must place a very conspicuous and visible sign that informs everyone of the use of CCTV cameras.
  2. You also have the right to request either verbally or in writing, copies of the information captured by the CCTV cameras, especially those that have your image.
  3. You equally have the legal right to mandate the CCTV user to delete any personal information about you that is stored in the CCTV memory.

Essentially, when your neighbor’s CCTV camera extends beyond the coverage of their own property into the property of others, they become data controllers, and they would be required to abide by the dictates of the data protection law. It is also important to know that laws governing the use of CCTV cameras vary from one state to another in the US.

CCTV signs legal requirement

Are you legally obliged to display a sign with a CCTV camera?

Are CCTV users required to display warning signs when using CCTV to capture public areas? Yes, they are required to inform every one of the presence of CCTV cameras with the use of a sign. This also applies to employers who install CCTV at the offices, they are required to inform their employees of the use of CCTV cameras, and a sign should be placed to that effect. 

Signs should be placed within areas that are covered by the CCTV camera, and these signs should conform to the following checklist;

  1. The letters in the signage should be eye-catching, legible and bold. As a rule of thumb, every letter from the signage should be visible from a distance of about 25 feet. 
  2. Another rule is that it should have the contact details of the user just in case anyone wants to make enquiries. The signage should contain information on the organization operating the CCTV  and the reasons for operating a CCTV camera.
  3. Signage should be placed at the main entrance of the area covered by CCTV surveillance cameras.

One of the compelling reasons behind having a CCTV signage is to discourage criminal intent as well as acts of vandalism. When someone who originally had the intention to commit a crime sees the CCTV sign, they become aware and desist from such criminal activity. This is being proactive, you would say.

A lot of business owners and companies today use CCTV surveillance cameras to monitor their business operations and employees, however, employers must comply with the Data Protection Act, and they must use a sign to inform employees of the presence of CCTV and the purpose for which it was installed. 

How long can CCTV footage be kept?

How long can that CCTV footage be kept? Photo by Anthony from Pexels

When it comes to the amount of time that recorded CCTV footage or data can be kept, there is no hard and fast rule. It all depends on the nature and severity of the incidents in the footage. It is however recommended that you keep CCTV footage for at least 30 days as this is usually the capacity of most CCTV storage devices.

Should you have any need to keep the footage for as long as you desire, it is all up to you. If you feel that some particular incidents in the footage are of a severe nature, one in which the police may likely get involved, then you can keep the footage much longer. Otherwise, you can delete footage in as little as 10-14 days. Most times the capacity of the storage device linked with the CCTV camera determines how long you can keep the footage. As it is with a lot of CCTV cameras, once the memory gets full, the new footage automatically overwrites the old ones.

Ideally, you can always find the best storage strategy that works for you. There are so many ways you can store data from your CCTV camera. You can purchase more hard drives to store your CCTV data, or on the flip side, if you do not like the idea of having physical storage devices in your house or office, you can decide to store your data using cloud storage facilities. It is a quick and inexpensive way to store your CCTV footage data for as long as you want.

Police request for CCTV footage

Can the police ask for your CCTV footage? Photo by kat wilcox from Pexels

Yes, the police have the right to request CCTV footage, but this has to be done formally and in a polite manner. In a situation where the police officer is certain that a particular CCTV surveillance camera contains images from a crime that is under investigation, the police officer is legally empowered to seize the CCTV system if the owner refuses to grant access.

If a burglar disturbs your neighborhood from time to time, and the police ask you to grant them access to view your CCTV as there could be information about the identity of the burglar, I’m very sure you would grant them access, because it’s possible that your house could be next in line. 

The enormous role CCTV plays in police solving investigations cannot be over-emphasized. Police officers use CCTV footage in unveiling the identity of suspects; they use CCTV footage in determining whether a crime has taken place in a given situation, they also you footage from CCTV recording to confirm statements made by the suspect, the victim and other third parties. As a rule of thumb, you are required to grant police officers access to data from CCTV  footage provided they are acting within the confines of the law.

How do you get CCTV footage of a car accident?

Is it possible to get footage CCTV of a car accident?

No one ever prays to be involved in an accident, but they do occur, and most times you’re wondering what really happened in the minutes leading to the crash and who may likely be at fault if the accident involves multiple cars. Well, CCTV footage can help in this type of situation.

There are CCTV cameras installed in major streets and highways by government agencies and private business owners alike. These cameras capture happenings on the road, including accidents. But, should you have a need to retrieve footage from CCTV cameras after an accident, would you be able to get it easily? Most times it is difficult to get.

There are important things you need to put into consideration before you can request a CCTV footage of your accident. First, you need to know the exact spot and angle that the accident took place and the likely CCTV camera(s) that would have captured the incident. If an accident was captured by a highway traffic camera, you’ll need to recruit the services of an attorney in your attempt to retrieve CCTV data as there would be a long line of protocols that you would need to go through.

You’ll need the services of an attorney to help you issue a subpoena demanding that the footage be released. This is owing to the fact that most organizations or government agencies are not under any obligation to release the footage to you, and worst of all, they are not ready to put in the effort required in sorting out that aspect of the footage. 

However, before you seek to get CCTV footage of a car accident, you should know that obtaining such data can be a double-edged sword. It can help you get compensation and better treatment from injuries. On the other hand, the data from the footage could deny your claims for compensation depending on the scenario that plays out.