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Privacy The Courts Security The Almighty Buck Technology Hardware

Scottish Court Awards Damages For CCTV Camera Pointed At Neighbor's House (boingboing.net) 96

AmiMoJo quotes a report from BoingBoing: Edinburgh's Nahid Akram installed a CCTV system that let him record his downstairs neighbors Debbie and Tony Woolley in their back garden, capturing both images and audio of their private conversations, with a system that had the capacity to record continuously for five days. A Scottish court has ruled that the distress caused by their neighbor's camera entitled the Woolleys to $21,000 (17,000 British Pounds) in damages, without the need for them to demonstrate any actual financial loss. The judgment builds on a 2015 English court ruling against Google for spying on logged out Safari users, where the users were not required to show financial losses to receive compensation for private surveillance.
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Scottish Court Awards Damages For CCTV Camera Pointed At Neighbor's House

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  • If CCTV cam now records any part of someone's property its autowin in court? Did someone think to sue State of London for all those cameras around? One or two are bound to record someone's property.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
      My fear is that this is the penalty for confusing the right of the individual to spy on the neighbor versus the obligation of the government to do so.
    • by Shepanator ( 4796689 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @08:35PM (#53883037)
      They only cover public areas, but if you are one of the few with a camera in view of your windows then you can send them a request to mask it. They have software that puts a black box over where your window is so bored operators can't see what you're having for breakfast.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Read the actual court decision.

      The two parties each own part of a building, one on the upper and the other on the lower floor. Additionally, the two parties were hostile to each other. The judgement here is unlikely to apply to your imagined scenario.

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      If CCTV cam now records any part of someone's property its autowin in court? .

      No, that's a stupid interpretation. UK courts have regularly been much less tolerant of audio recordings, which rarely have a legitimate use without a warrant.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        What about lip reading? With HD cameras that's possible these days, can even be automated with machine vision.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @10:11PM (#53883467)
      Autowin? I think the bit "capturing both images and audio of their private conversations" had a lot to do with it.
      There are a few laws about recording conversations without consent.
    • by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @11:30PM (#53883799)

      do I understand it right?

      You give no indication that you do.

      If CCTV cam now records any part of someone's property its autowin in court?

      That would seem unlikely. What gave you that idea?

      Did someone think to sue State of London for all those cameras around?

      Is the City of London operating "all those cameras" in contravention of the Act?

      One or two are bound to record someone's property.

      And ...?

      In the event this case rested on the failure of the defendant "in her duties as data controller": in the first instance by her failure to become registered as such; and also in "breach[ing] her duty to comply with the data protection principles" under the Data Protection Act 1998. One suspects however, given the dramatic negative impact of defendant's action on plaintiffs' "use and enjoyment of their own home" that plaintiffs could also have succeeded under nuisance.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Did someone think to sue State of London for all those cameras around?

        Is the City of London operating "all those cameras" in contravention of the Act?

        A better question is, are the governments of London operating all of those cameras? How many are private?

        The oft-quoted number of eleventy bajillion cameras in London almost always include private CCTV cameras (which are in almost every country these days). Only a fraction of them are government owned.

        Also, the City of London is a 3 KM square stretch of central London. There are 32 other administrative regions (boroughs) in London, each will run their own sets of CCTV which will make a smaller fractio

    • I thought that Europeans can't achieve orgasm without being under constant CCTV surveillance? Obviously this guy is new there.

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        Companies can't tell our data with impunity like over with you, so y'know it's swings and roundabouts.
    • You aren't understanding anything right. The UK legal system is based on reasonable expectations. Someone's backward provides the person a reasonable expectation of privacy. The neighbour violated that.

    • What's State of London?

    • Most of the cameras are private security cameras inside shops and banks. I guess a few might but generally they'll provide a privacy screen in this situation.
    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      1. City of London
      2. London is in England, and this court decision was in Scotland. Scottish law doesn't apply in England.

      So no.

    • Very likely the Arab or Hindu neighbour wanted to corroborate his neighbours were the voices he was *hearing* in his head, by recording them non stop then go and spit it in their faces and tell other people he had found them. Should the situation be the inverse, I would think the Scot neighbours were recording non stop to corroborate their Arab or Hindu neighbour was the presence they were feeling was visiting their place when they were not present and scaring the cat or castrating the chipmunks or taking a
  • Did the camera set their house on fire?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Did the camera set their house on fire?

      For years now they could not go outside without being monitored. For years they could not hold a private conversation either inside or outside the house. If you don't think that would cause distress, 1984 must be your idea of a really good time.

      • You're probably an optimistic person if you don't think this isn't already happening to you.

        • Why? What magical power do you think is routinely listening in to everyone's private conversations inside their own homes?

          There have certainly been technologies developed that could do such things, including phones, microphones on computers, and devices like "smart" TVs and gaming consoles. However, if anyone actually was routinely listening in using those sensors and transmitting the data somewhere else, it would be a significant privacy issue and potentially an expensive mistake in legal and/or PR terms (

          • Other than Amazon, Google, individuals that have compromised your laptop, computer, phone or voice actived IoT device? Probably not the government, unless you've done something to get on their radar.

            Google is at least nice enough to let you view the logs of everything they've recorded. And currently you can delete them, until the terms of service change.

            A lot of privacy laws in the world, including many states in the US, apply primarily to government agencies. While laws usually aren't nearly as strict for

            • You're being paranoid. The likes of Amazon and Google aren't routinely recording everything you say and uploading it to the mothership. For a start, that would almost certainly be illegal in some places, and in any case they'd be discovered very quickly given the amount of data involved. We should certainly be aware of the risks with these modern devices that have both sensors and communications capabilities, and I think both the security of the devices and consideration for their privacy in normal operatio

              • You can literally go onto your Google account and play back hundreds of recordings that it has taken with your phone. Then erase them if you so choose.

                • Details please.

                  • Google -> My Account -> Go to Activity Controls -> Voice & Audio Activity -> Manage Activity

                    If you have it turned off (PAUSE), then you should have nothing listed (I hope). If you turn it on, you'll start accumulating data there and you can delete stuff. What happens is it normally wants to note activity of you using the "OK Google" service, but it will log a lot of false positives.

                    I find bits of conversations with wife, meetings at work, other people at the bar, and more. Theoretically I ha

                    • So just to be clear, you're not actually saying that Google are routinely listening in to everyone's surroundings, you're saying that an optional voice-activated feature on Android devices sometimes has false positives on the trigger word if it's enabled and in those cases it may record a short part of the audio around the phone and send it back to Google the same as it would if you were actually intending to use the voice-activated feature? I think it's fair to say that one of these is quite different to t

                    • I'm saying that they have the capability of doing it. And many people are being recorded without knowing it.

                      Theoretically Google's privacy agreement prevents them from doing it without your permission. But if they went ahead anywhere there would not be any major consequences, and the easiest would be to update the agreement to allow exceptions.

                      The agreement makes it clear that the recorders do turn into data for Google. Theoretically they took steps to anonymize the recordings, but the next time you see an

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Privacy invasions into your home, your most private space, are treated pretty harshly. Depriving people of that privacy for an extended period of time is going to rack up big costs. Data Protection laws are designed that way to prevent companies from violating privacy for profit and simply absorbing the fines like any other cost.

      The cameras to the front of the house record every person approaching the pursuersâ(TM) home. The cameras to the rear were set deliberately to record footage of the pursuersâ(TM) private garden area. There was no legitimate reason for the nature and extent of such video coverage.

      Mr Akram, on one occasion, taunted the pursuers about his ability to listen to them as the pursuers conversed in their garden.

      Two audio boxes were installed immediately below front bedroom windows.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @08:27PM (#53882991)

    The same logic applied to Government installed cameras.. Oh no, this only applies to "private" ones..

    • Re: IF only... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shepanator ( 4796689 )
      Since when did the government install a camera specifically to observe your private garden?
      • In my last flat, they installed a camera that watched the bus stop in front of my front door and managed to install it in such a way that it could probably see into the bedroom of a couple of flats in the row. One of my neighbours complained and they took it down immediately.
    • Of course it does. If the government put a CCTV camera up specifically to watch you in your garden they would need something called a warrant.

  • the other two are still recording
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I will check again later,but at the moment I can find nothing about why he had such a system fitted..
    I can see this case causing all sorts of problems here in the UK because we supposedly have the highest density of cctv systems in the world,many,many people fit them to their homes for security,some insurance companies give a discount if a property is coveted by a decent quality system..
    Wether this case is going to be used to set a precedent in the UK as a whole is very difficult to say,as the Scottish and

    • Re:but (Score:5, Informative)

      by ChoGGi ( 522069 ) <slashdot@choggi.org> on Thursday February 16, 2017 @08:52PM (#53883143) Homepage

      http://www.edinburghnews.scots... [scotsman.com]

      She (Nahid) wanted to change the property use from a guest house to a bail hostel, the neighbors (Woolleys) opposed it, so the city agreed not to change property usage.
      It seems the cameras were a fuck you to the Woolleys.

      Two of the audio boxes were situated immediately below the Woolleysâ(TM) front bedroom âwindows and they feared conversations inside their home were also being recorded.

      Sheriff Ross said Nahid Akramâ(TM)s husband Sohail, who was manager of the Murrayfield Park Guest House, taunted the Woolleys about his ability to listen to them by âoeputting his hand to his ear to mime listening to their conversationâ,

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        Short term solution:

        1. Pink noise generator, through a parabolic reflector aimed at the camera (microphone)
        2. Small laser pointer aimed at the camera lens, or if that's a problem legally, a small array of superbright LEDs facing the lens - use some on white, and a few on red, green, and blue.

        Longer term:
        Call the authorities at the slightest hint of a breach of regulations. Pay for a friend to stay at the guest house and take notes of any code violations - health, building, electrical, etc, then hand that ov

  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @08:58PM (#53883175) Homepage

    I can't see how this is anything other than a good thing.

    There is a reasonable expectation of privacy on ones own property, and this was recording sound, not just video footage.

    • >"There is a reasonable expectation of privacy on ones own property, and this was recording sound, not just video footage."

      Is there? So you think the many the thousands and thousands of government-owned cameras never include ANY private property in their views? I think this is more about audio than anything else.

      Don't get me wrong, I think the UK has gone WAY overboard with surveillance, and the USA is headed down the same path.

      • That which could be potentially observed or heard by a person standing in a public space such as a sidewalk is usually presumed to be completely unprotected. So, yes, you do not have privacy in your living room if the front of your house is near the sidewalk and you choose to keep the curtains open.

        There is some ambiguity about technology like parabolic dish mikes, telephoto lenses, and infrared cameras, used from public locations to delve into private property in a manner that was implausible for a physic

  • How Times Change (Score:4, Informative)

    by TranquilVoid ( 2444228 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @10:28PM (#53883535)

    "Mah hobby is secretly videotaping couples in cars. I dinna come forward because in this country, it makes you look like a pervert—but every single Scottish person does it!" - Groundskeeper Willie

  • I understand privacy. That decision was good. I hope the court does not set a precedent to personal filming in public.
  • Considering one of the persons involved was a Solicitor it doesn't seem like he showed superior judgement. FFS You pay quarter of a million quid for a flat and the person below wants to turn their "Guest House" into a bail hostel ? [ = huge amounts of money from the Government] FFS You would have the cast of trainspotting trooping in and out 24 hours of the day - say goodbye to your house value. It really does smell of payback doesn't it ? I would sell up and get out of there - that neighbour is going to
  • Cameras and microphones will continue to become more sensitive and miniaturized. You have to assume that you may be recorded and will not be able to detect that. Technology also provides ways to increase privacy though, for example use your phone to send a message to a thousand people around the world without anyone else being able to see the message or the fact of a large gathering. You may not like it, but the world does not stand still.

    • You may not like it, but the world does not stand still.

      The world has never stood still, but there have also always been things we could do but accepted that we shouldn't. That principle is behind everything from common decency and good manners to statutory protections and penalties for illegal acts.

      There is nothing different about improving surveillance technology, and there is no reason we should just accept that using modern technology to intrude into our everyday lives is or should be acceptable either ethically or legally merely because the technical capabi

  • The award is 17,000 GBP. It's completely unnecessary to describe this amount in terms of USD. Readers who live in a country which uses that currency must certainly be able to perform the conversion on their own.

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