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Whether a CCTV camera is always on depends on the type of camera, the use to which it is put to, and the age of the surveillance system.

Are CCTV Cameras Always On?

Whether a CCTV camera is always on depends on the type of camera, the use to which it is put to, and the age of the surveillance system. Most modern CCTV systems have cameras that are motion-activated – meaning they start recording as something in their field of view makes a movement.

This is useful as it saves space on the recorder, but sometimes the amount of movements that a camera can record – leaves blowing across the view, for example – can mean that the camera does record rather more than is useful. Using modern cameras that have built-in software that detect the type of motion, and only record necessary movement, are very useful. For instance, they can detect the difference between a cat walking across a yard, and a person walking across it. The false alarms are ignored, and only those things such as people and cars moving past the field of view are captured. This not only makes finding the right images much easier when viewing the playback (as there are fewer activities recorded on the log to go through) but also it saves space on the recorder, meaning the images you do record will be kept for longer, whilst still giving reliable, high-quality security of the area.

Modern CCTV systems store all images captured securely on the recorder – either a Network Video Recorder (NVR) or Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The images within the recorder are automatically deleted after a set amount of time, and so most of the time images that have been recorded are not looked at by anyone before they are deleted.

The images can be viewed via a secure connection to a mobile device (phone or tablet) that has been set up by the installation company to view the system. This means that designated persons are also able to view images remotely from wherever they are in the world.

The only images which are kept for longer than the recorder storage allows are those that are manually downloaded from the system on behalf of the system owner, in order to be used for a specific purpose – usually to provide images to a police force after an incident, or (in the case of cameras that are not solely on private property) to answer a request by an individual regarding footage of themselves.

Individuals or businesses who are thinking of getting (or already have) a surveillance system should follow certain guidelines for the initial design and continued maintenance of the system. It is worth asking for a professional to design the layout, as they will take into consideration the requirements needed for the system whilst adhering to the requirements of the ICO (Information Commissioners Office).

In this Article:

  1. Privately Owned (modern) CCTV Surveillance Systems
  2. Business premises (modern) CCTV Surveillance Systems
  3. Public (modern) CCTV Surveillance Systems
  4. Analogue (not modern) CCTV Systems
  5. Our Services

Privately Owned CCTV Surveillance Systems:

Typically for privately owned CCTV, footage is checked only when an incident has happened. Although this being said, some systems can send alarms to a mobile phone when they detect movement – these alarms can be set for certain time periods. For example, you can be notified of events overnight, and turn the alerts off in the day when the property is busier.

Cameras that are on a privately owned property, but which may capture part of a public space in the location they are fitted – for example, a camera on a property that is viewing a private yard, but which also views part of a public road running alongside the yard – may be fitted with a privacy screening algorithm which masks part of the CCTV images where members of the public might be captured. This is useful as it means that a camera can be fitted in the most appropriate location for the private property, giving the highest level of security, but without recording images of people not on the property. Any CCTV cameras on a private property that are unable to be fitted where they not capture public spaces, and without a masking algorithm, fall under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA18). This means that you become a data controller, and will have legal obligations under these acts.

Business premises CCTV Surveillance Systems:

These systems are similar to privately owned properties, with motion detection cameras that record when needed. These systems are usually only checked when an incident has happened, or when the company receives a subject access request (SAR). As the surveillance system at a business site will be recording employees and visitors, the company is a data controller. As a data controller, the company has an obligation to follow protocols set by the GDPR and the DPA2018. The company is required to register with the ICO, and follow rules when designing the CCTV system, such as only using CCTV where it is needed, not fitting it in areas where employees are entitled to privacy, and restricting access to the system. The company also needs to display signs to warn people about the surveillance in operation.

Businesses often opt to have a combined CCTV and alarm system, which gives high levels of security and at a lower cost than two separate systems. Companies are also likely to use CCTV for production processes and Health and Safety commitments as well as for security. For example, installing cameras with PPE detecting software in certain areas that will alert management if a person who is not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment enters that area. This is extremely helpful for keeping employees and visitors safe. Production process cameras – such as those viewing a conveyor belt – are useful in reducing and stopping production issues, and do not usually record employees or visitors.

Public (modern) CCTV Surveillance Systems:

Surveillance used by public authorities, such as local council’s or the police, generally record the events within the camera’s field of view continually. The CCTV system will also usually be monitored manually from a central hub. If the camera is fixed, it will record in one field of view only. Local authorities regularly use PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras that can be moved around by the operator, or which follow movement automatically, or cameras with fisheye lenses which have a greater angle to their field of view. Using these cameras gives greater scope for monitoring an area and keeping individuals in a public space safe, whilst minimising the impact of cameras in an area.

After a certain amount of time, usually around 30 days (although this is dependant on the surveillance system), these images will be disposed of securely and automatically by the recording system. This is the case unless an incident has happened or a request has been received that requires the appropriate footage being downloaded from the surveillance system. Local authorities follow strict laws for the appropriate handling of images which have individual’s data on.

Analogue CCTV Systems:

Older CCTV systems – those systems installed >15 years ago – are likely to be analogue systems which record onto VHS tapes. These are mostly defunct now as the image quality is much lower, they take longer (as well as being more disruptive) to install, requiring many cable runs around the site. They are also difficult systems to add to or adjust over time, and require manual input with disposing of unneeded footage which is not as secure as the modern automatic overwrite that recorders now have inbuilt. These older systems often recorded continually, as the technology required for motion detection was not widely available for these systems.

Our Services:

O·R·P have over 20 years of experience in designing and installing CCTV surveillance systems for all aspects of surveillance – site security, production processes, health and safety commitments and public security – and for all manner of organisations including local authorities, commercial and industrial businesses, agricultural sites and domestic properties. We offer free, no-obligation quotations. Use our Contact Us page, email us, or call to book your survey today.

Get in touch for more details

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