Southampton Council in the dock

taxi-2Southampton Council’s attempt to justify it’s policy of requiring taxis to record audio and video of every journey took another blow yesterday when the ‘First Tier Tribunal’ ruled against it.

The case stems from a complaint made by Big Brother Watch and others to the ICO, and led to Oxford council abandoning it’s policy and Southampton being given an ‘enforcement notice’ – essentially a prosecution for breaching the Data Protection Act.

As reported by the barrister’s chambers 11KBW, who acted for the Information Commissioner’s Office in the case, “what the Council disputed was (1) the conclusion that the policy involved the processing of “sensitive personal data” as well as personal data; and (2) the ICO’s finding that the recording and retention of audio data was a disproportionate interference with passengers’ privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention.”

On both points, the tribunal ruled against the council, saying the policy was disproportionate and accepting the risk of “function creep”.

With lawyers highlighting that this case sets an important precedent for surveillance and data protection law, we hope that in future councils will not be so quick to implement policies that so blatantly trample on the privacy of people without any kind of justification.

The only decision Southampton Council can now make is to abandon this ludicrous policy and we will be writing to them to demand they do so immediately.