The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Body worn video devices (BWV), worn as part of a uniform, are increasingly being considered for use in the workplace, especially by the emergency services. There are also a range of ‘sports action cameras’ which are being used by data controllers for this purpose.

The sensitivity of the footage (including both audio and video) will differ according to the situation. The extent of the damage and distress if it was accessed by an unauthorised person must therefore be taken into account by the data controller. Given the potentially active nature of individuals wearing BWV, data controllers must also take into account the increased likelihood of loss or theft. This is complicated by the method by which the device stores data. For example, some BWV devices store data directly on the device, whilst others store data on removable memory cards. Loss of such a card, either due to theft or technical issues, may be perceived as a greater risk than the loss of the device itself.

If video was stored in an encrypted form on the device and it is lost or stolen then the potential for unauthorised access is greatly reduced. Therefore data controllers must give specific consideration to their own circumstances and consider the most appropriate encryption or other compensatory methods such as retaining a log of device usage, secure fastenings, copying data to a secure location and securely destroying data on the device as soon as practical.

Many BWV devices have replay screens, meaning that data may still be viewable on the device even if that data is stored in an encrypted form. This could pose a risk if the device in question is lost or stolen. Access controls such as PIN codes may mitigate this risk; however, data controllers must ensure that they have appropriate protocols and management procedures in place, particularly if BWV devices may be issued on a personal basis as well as from a general repository.

Using a BWV device which stores data in encrypted form, in conjunction with appropriate access control to prevent any replay directly on the device, would protect against unauthorised access to footage should the device be lost or stolen. Encryption and access control may also protect against unauthorised copying of the footage to a personal device – encryption alone would not prevent unauthorised copying, but it could make accessing the data more difficult.