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A Legal Guide to Using Dash Cams in Taxis

CCTV could be increasingly common in taxis and private hire vehicles across the UK following the Latest Statutory Taxi & PHV Standards Announcement.

Following extensive consultation across government as well as with industry and regulators The Department for Transport this week released new standards to improve safety for taxi and private hire vehicle passengers in England and Wales.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the recommendations that include enhanced DBS criminal record checks for drivers every six months. However the measures also touched upon the thorny subject of CCTV. The industry must consider ways to increase passengers’ safety whilst balancing privacy concerns around the potential use of CCTV. The Statutory Standards are clear that authorities should undertake a comprehensive review to assess whether CCTV would be beneficial and proportionate in their area and to take into account potential privacy issues. It will be up to licensing authorities to determine if and how CCTV could be deployed.

Despite offering no clear instruction on the subject licensing authorities will be expected “to fully implement these measures as soon as possible” by the DfT. Some local authorities already require taxi firms to install continuous recording dash cams in all their vehicles. Chris Salmon the co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services takes you through a legal guide when using dash cams and CCTV in Taxis

Outward facing dashboard mounted cameras are relatively affordable and offer many benefits, improving road safety and protecting both drivers and passengers. As a result they are already in fairly wide use across the industry. However, taxi operators must be aware of the regulations affecting dash cam use. The penalties for dash cam misuse can be severe.

What are continuous recording dash cams?

Continuous recording dash cams are car installed CCTV systems that record video footage when the car is running. Some systems include a parking mode that continues recording when the car is parked and the engine is off.

Dash cams can include front and rear facing cameras that record activity ahead of, inside and behind the car. Some can also record audio.

Why install dash cams in taxis?

Statistically, dash cams have been shown to reduce accidents – a clear benefit to drivers, customers, taxi firms and other road users. Dash cams offer many other benefits…

For taxi firms

Every year, one in three taxi drivers makes an insurance claim. Insurance premiums represent a significant operating overhead. Dash cams improve driver behaviour and offer irrefutable evidence of liability. Small wonder that insurance companies offer premium reductions if dash cams are fitted.

With fraudulent claims, such as ‘crash for cash’ scams, video footage will support the driver’s defence. The increased normalisation and visibility of cameras might even help prevent fraudulent claims in the first place.

Dash cams help with driver training and monitoring compliance with company policy. For example, if drivers are prohibited from making personal calls whilst carrying passengers, dash cams will not only record non-compliance but actively deter it.

Systems with built in GPS can be used to evidence and deter drivers from speeding. Some dash cams include real-time vehicle position tracking, helping businesses to operate more efficiently.

For taxi drivers

Cameras can help a driver prove what happened in the event of an accident.

Dash cams can resolve payment disputes, and the visible presence of a dash cam has been shown to deter abuse and assaults on drivers. In the event that a passenger accuses the driver of abuse or misconduct, video footage can be invaluable in establishing the facts.

If a customer makes an allegation, some companies using self-employed drivers will side with the passenger by default and ban the driver. However, these companies will accept video evidence that could exonerate the driver and save their job.

For customers

Most passengers understand the safety and security benefits offered by CCTV. With cameras in operation, drivers are more likely to comply with company policies and drive more sensibly. The risk of a road accident will, therefore, be reduced.

The law

Businesses can legally use dash cams in the UK, but they must adhere to strict privacy rules. As with CCTV, or any other surveillance system, images and audio recordings of an individual captured by dash cam constitute personal data. Number plates of privately-owned vehicles are also considered personal data.

General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (‘GDPR’) is the primary legislation regulating how companies obtain, store, and use the personal data of others.

In accordance with GDPR, businesses must have a ‘clearly defined and specific purpose’ for the use of dash cams. Taxi firms cannot simply rollout dash cams unless they can demonstrate that camera usage is both necessary and proportionate to the problem it addresses.

If, as a business, you control the processing of people’s personal data, the law considers you to be a ‘data controller’. In cases where a council has mandated system installation, the council will most likely be the data controller.

A data controller’s responsibility is not one to be taken lightly. Under the GDPR, the ICO can fine companies up to 20 million Euros, or 4% of group worldwide turnover, for a breach of the legislation.

How can taxi firms comply with the law?

In the first instance businesses should familiarise themselves with the GDPR and the ICO – CCTV code of practice.

The case for dash cams may seem obvious, but businesses must properly consider whether dash cams would be an effective and justified solution. If the problems identified can be solved with less intrusive systems, such as a GPS device that monitors speed, then GDPR would require these systems to be used instead.

In order to identify and minimise data protection risks, a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) should then be carried out.

Drivers must be informed that cameras will be installed and the company’s motives for doing so.

Chris Salmon of Quittance Legal Services said, “One potential issue is that continuous recording cameras will record the driver’s activities when the vehicle is being used privately by the driver. As with any private individual, taxi drivers, have a legal right to privacy.”

“Continuous recording when the car is being used privately by an off duty driver would be deemed unlawful, unfair and excessive under data protection legislation and a breach of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.”

“Companies should therefore ensure that their systems can be manually or automatically disabled when the driver is off-duty.”

Passengers also have a right to privacy and they must be informed that CCTV is in operation in the taxi. Signage including the name and contact details of the data controller should be fitted at all vehicle access points.

If possible, customers should also be notified of dash cam use during the booking process. Taxi companies can publish a privacy statement on their company website. It must be written in clear and plain language and explain why personal data is being collected, how long the data will be retained for, and who the data will be shared with.

Recordings must not be retained for any longer than is necessary, and for a maximum of 28 days – unless there are exceptional circumstances such as an insurance claim or criminal investigation.

Specifying compliant hardware is far from straightforward. Dash cams should be permanently installed. Removable dash cams carry a greater risk of personal data loss.

Under GDPR, stored personal data must be encrypted, and access should be restricted to authorised and suitably-trained individuals. However, most dash cam models don’t offer encryption.

Some cameras can record audio but, in almost all cases, this will be seen as too intrusive. Cameras that record audio may not be used unless the audio functionality can be permanently disabled. If the camera has a visible panic button that activates audio recording, this may be allowed.

Some local authorities publish an approved list of dash cam models.

Drivers and passengers have the right to access their personal data by making a ‘subject access request’ (SAR). Firms should have suitable processes in place to respond to a SAR within one month.

A company must report a suspected data breach to the ICO within 72 hours. Any individual whose personal data may have been compromised must also be notified.

If the local authority is acting as the data controller, it may not be necessary for a firm to register with the ICO. However, it may still be a good idea to do so as it will help ensure firms have the right policies in place in the event of a SAR or evidence request.

Conclusion

When implemented correctly and within the constraints and spirit of the law, dash cams offer innumerable benefits to taxi operators and drivers.

In the past, some employers have used CCTV heavy-handedly. As a result, drivers and unions often react negatively to the use of cameras.

Although the use of dash cams in taxis addresses a genuine need, companies should explain their motives for installing cameras to drivers. Adopting a more consultative approach will help companies to secure buy-in and prevent erosion of trust.

Similarly, being open and transparent with customers can help frame camera usage as a benefit that can underpin the company’s brand values.

Chris Salmon – Author Bio

Chris Salmon is a co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services and is a regular commentator in the legal press.

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