The Diocese of Meath has a data protection policy in place that covers the use of webcam and CCTV images.

Section 2 (1) c (iii) of the Data Protection Act requires that data are ‘adequate, relevant and not excessive’ and fit for purpose for which they are collected.

If a data controller is satisfied that the installation of a CCTV system is justified, s/he must carefully consider what it will be used for and if these uses are deemed reasonable in the circumstances.

Security of premises or other property is probably the most common use of a CCTV system and, as such, will typically be intended to capture images of intruders, or of individuals damaging property or removing goods without permission. Using a CCTV to constantly monitor employees is highly intrusive and would need to be justified by reference to special circumstances. The retail sector is one example where there is evidence to suggest that money or goods could be removed without authorisation.

The location of CCTV is a key consideration, and its use within areas where individuals would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, e.g. toilets and changing rooms, would be difficult to justify. Cameras placed so as to record external areas should be positioned in such a way as to prevent or minimise recording of passers-by, or of another person’s private property.

Having acknowledged the positive and sometimes negative aspect of CCTV, the Diocese has drawn up a policy and guidelines in order to maximise the benefit of such installations and minimise the possibility of a person’s privacy being infringed.

  • Where CCTV cameras are in place, it is important to have very obvious signs informing Church personnel, parishioners, volunteers and the public that this is the case;
  • All uses of CCTV must be appropriate and fit for a specific purpose. As CCTV infringes the privacy of persons captured in the images, there must be a genuine reason for installing such a system;
  • If installing such a system, the purpose for doing so must be displayed in a prominent place and preferably behind a locked noticeboard where it will not be damaged or removed. In a church, an obvious place would be within the porch and at all entrances;
  • The length of time for the storage of images captured, access and security should be outlined in the Data Protection Policy of the Church body.

Data captured via CCTV

Recognisable images captured by CCTV are ‘personal data’ and therefore subject to the provisions of the GDPR/Data Protection Acts. The data controller must be able to justify obtaining and using the data by CCTV. Using it to control the perimeter of a building for security purposes is regarded as justifiable.

There are eight principles of data protection which apply to all uses of personal data:

1. Obtain and process information fairly (i.e. ensure that persons whose data is obtained are made aware of the name of the data controller)

2. Keep data for only one or more specified, explicit and lawful purposes

3. Use and disclose data only in ways compatible with these purposes (Section 8 lifts this principle in restricted instances e.g. where disclosure is required by law, or is made to the individual concerned or with his / her consent)

4. Keep data safe and secure

5. Keep data accurate, complete and up to date

6. Ensure data is adequate, relevant and not excessive

7. Retain data for no longer than is necessary for the purpose(s)

8. Give a copy of his / her personal data to an individual on request


There are a number of data protection issues that must be met in relation to broadcasting on the internet:

  • Recording people via a web camera, and the subsequent displaying of such images over the internet, is regarded as the processing of personal data. It is imperative that it must be done with the consent of the individual;
  • Camera shots (images of the congregation) should be wide shots, minimising the possibility of easily identifying individuals with close-up images;
  • Signs should be placed at all entrances to the church and in other prominent locations, informing those attending ceremonies or visiting the church that web cameras are in operation;
  • If the Church activity being recorded involves children (for example as altar servers, Ministers of the Word, choirs etc) then their written consent and that of their parents/guardians is required.
  • Service providers should be able to give regular and accurate information regarding the number of people who actually log in online to view. This information is important for future planning and assessing the value of web-broadcasting;
  • If connecting to the parish broadband, ensure that the broadband package has unlimited usage for uploading, or else there is a risk of incurring significant costs from the provider;
  • It is imperative that live broadcasts can be terminated to stop transmission. This should be done by accessing the control panel of the system. If this is not accessible by the priest from the altar, someone should be delegated to break transmission if required.
  • Cameras should be installed with due care and respect for church building. Cameras should only be switched on during Mass or other liturgical events and switched off at the end.