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Court rules against invasive CCTV cameras

Data protection law shields against nosy neighbors

The Supreme Court has ruled against a man who installed security cameras trained on houses near his own residence.

The sentence has forced the defendant, Canary Island resident Gunter R., to dismantle a system of cameras that captured images of the comings and goings of neighbors from adjacent properties, as well as his own front door.

The decision upholds an earlier ruling by the Tenerife High Court that the installation of such cameras- as well as powerful movement-sensitive floodlights, to enable nighttime recording- had violated neighbor Carmelo G.'s right to privacy.

Presiding Judge Juan Antonio Xiol also ruled that the defendant should pay ?300 compensation for psychological damage caused by the filming and bright lights.

The sentence ruled that "entering and leaving the family home affects, even if tangentially, the intimate sphere where neighbors live their lives. Recording these images suggests monitoring, or watching over, an area that each person keeps for themselves, or their inner circle."

The Supreme Court concluded that the measure adopted by Gunter R. to protect his home in Icod de los Vinos (Santa Cruz de Tenerife) was not proportionate to his security needs, which could have been met without invading the privacy of others by training cameras on his neighbor's doors.

Spain's data-protection law is clear on this point. It establishes that you cannot record more than necessary. "If the camera is installed to watch over a garage, it should not cover a wider area," explains Artemi Rallo, director of the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD.) He says that his agency comes across dozens of cases every day that are similar to the one in Tenerife. He adds that legally all images must be destroyed after 30 days.