The use of external CCTV cameras on UK buses could be in breach of privacy laws, according to a Data Protection Supervisor.
Iain McDonald revealed his office has issued an enforcement notice against the Manchester Department of Community, Culture and Leisure (DCCL), with an initial hearing before the Data Protection Tribunal scheduled for late April.
Mr McDonald said that cameras can capture images as far as 45 metres away on either side of the bus, which can result in the illegal recording of people on their own property.
He said that:
"These extensive recordings of the Manchester public as they go about their daily business' contravened people's fundamental right to know who is processing their personal data, and why."
However, the DCCL claims that the use of CCTV is vital for public and passenger safety. It states that the footage is destroyed after 56 days and is only viewed in response to specific incidents.
In an attempt to justify the use of these invasive surveillance devices, Michael Cartwright, Head of Operations for Public Transport, said:
"Buses are generally fitted with internal and external CCTV; it's standard these days. Any built in the last 10 years will have them installed, anywhere in the world. It's hard to buy a bus in today's market without them. They are fitted for crime detection purposes, and for insurance claims, insurance companies like to see the footage.
"The hearing centres around our compliance with data protection. Quite clearly we need to comply with the act and put in the public domain the fact that the buses have external CCTV."
The DCCL said that it will continue to use the cameras until the issue is resolved.
Globally, the growth of surveillance on public transport has steadily increased.
This week police in Mumbia requested that CCTV cameras be installed on all four thousand of its city buses.
In Dehli, authorities want to install CCTV and GPS-tracking systems on over five thousand buses.
Also last year cities across America began using video AND audio recording devices on their public-transport systems that can potentially store every word spoken by passenger. Rights activists slammed the use of the devices and said the surveillance plan, by far, exceeds what is necessary for security.
Last month the city of Sheffield in the uk introduced plans to install CCTV cameras in every taxi cab in the city. The council wants to make use of cameras mandatory, against the wishes of the taxi drivers.