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Council ordered to stop unlawful recording of taxi passengers conversations


The Information Commissioner’s Office

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Issued 25 July 2012

Southampton City Council has been ordered to stop the mandatory recording of passengers’ and drivers’ conversations in the city’s taxis, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced today.

Since August 2009, the council has required all taxis and private hire vehicles to install CCTV equipment to constantly record images and the conversations of both drivers and passengers.

The ICO has ruled the council’s policy breaches the Data Protection Act, concluding that the recording of all conversations is disproportionate given the very low number of incidents occurring compared to the number of trouble free taxi journeys. An enforcement notice has been issued to the council who now have until 1 November to comply.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

“By requiring taxi operators to record all conversations and images while the vehicles are in use, Southampton City Council have gone too far.

“We recognise the Council’s desire to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers but this has to be balanced against the degree of privacy that most people would reasonably expect in the back of a taxi cab. It is only right that the privacy of drivers and passengers is respected. This is particularly important as many drivers will use their vehicles outside work. While CCTV can be used in taxis, local authorities must be sensible about the extent to which they mandate its use, particularly when audio recording is involved.”

The ICO has recently investigated a similar policy that was proposed by Oxford City Council. The ICO took preliminary enforcement action stating that the recording of passengers’ and drivers’ conversations in the city’s taxis would breach the Data Protection Act. The council have now suspended the implementation of the policy.

The Commissioner continued:

“We hope this action sends a clear message to local authorities that they must properly consider all the legal obligations on them before requiring the installation of CCTV or similar equipment and that audio recording should be very much the exception, rather than the rule.”

The Data Protection Act states that organisations can only collect personal data when it is fair and lawful to do so. For CCTV equipment in taxis, the ICO advises that images should only be recorded where it is clearly justifiable. Audio recordings should only be made on very rare occasions, for example where there are a high number of serious incidents and where recording is triggered due to a specific threat in a taxi cab.

A copy of today’s enforcement notice served to the council can be found on the ICO website at:

Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.

The ICO has published a ‘CCTV Code of Practice’ to help organisations using CCTV to stay within the law. This guidance is available at:

If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070 or visit the website at:


1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. Enforcement notices are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the notice. Any Notice of Appeal should be served on the Tribunal within 28 days of the date on which this Notice is served.

About the Author

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. We do this by promoting good practice, ruling on complaints, providing information to individuals and organisations and taking appropriate action when the law is broken.

The ICO enforces and oversees the following legislation:

  •  Data Protection Act 1998
  •  Freedom of Information Act 2000
  •  Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003
  •  Environmental Information Regulations 2004

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2012-08-08 09:03:31 in Business Articles

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