Data Protection Commission told it must release records on use of CCTV to combat illegal dumping

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) has been directed to release documents it holds on the use of surveillance cameras for tackling fly-tipping and environmental crime.

In a request made under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations, Right to Know had sought copies of correspondence between the DPC and local authorities about CCTV.

In both its original decision and at internal review, the DPC said the records sought were not “environmental information”.

They argued that the records related to data protection and personal data processing and they contained nothing that was likely to have an effect on the environment.

The Commissioner for Environmental Information disagreed however, and said the CCTV was clearly intended to “target illegal dumping and environmental crime”.

It said the records clearly related to a plan that carried “more than a remote possibility” of an environmental impact.

The decision added: “Data protection considerations are, therefore, in my view, a critical or integral factor in the proposed use of CCTV to target illegal dumping and environmental crime.

“This means that inquiries to the DPC about potential data protection considerations pertaining to the use of CCTV to target illegal dumping and environmental crime constitute information ‘on’ the measure [that is proposed or planned].”

The DPC’s other flimsy arguments about why the records would in any event be exempt under the AIE Regulations were also rejected in the decision.

Cases like this involving the DPC are important because that office is effectively off-limits within the FOI Act, where only purely administrative records can be accessed.

However, any of their work that has an environmental impact like this is open to scrutiny.