Video surveillance under the domestic purpose exemption
When does the exemption for domestic purposes apply?
The exemption only applies for activities that are connected to your personal or family life. It is, however, not possible to assess if the exemption applies for the surveillance solely based on the fact that it is connected to your personal or family life. Several factors need to be considered and an aggregated assessment must be made. The most central factors are usually what area is under surveillance and the purpose of the surveillance. It is important to remember that the domestic purpose exemption should be given a narrow interpretation and is only applicable on purely personal activities.
The domestic purpose exemption does not apply if your planning on sharing the data to a wider circle, e.g. on the internet or social media, regardless of whose data can be found in the material.
Video surveillance outside of your residence or on your property
With the purpose of preventing crime you, as a private citizen, might want to use video surveillance of your residence or property. This is possible within the domestic purpose exemption but you need to make sure that your surveillance does not cover your neighbour’s property or any area to which the public has access. If your surveillance entails processing of personal data, either through image or audio, you need to comply with the GDPR. This means, amongst other things, that you need to have a legal ground for your video surveillance.
Video surveillance of different buildings and vehicles
Video surveillance of buildings on your property, such as a garage, storage buildings, saunas etc, which is of purely personal use, does in general fall under the domestic purpose exemption. However, if you use video surveillance in connection to a building on your property where you carry out any business activities, then the GDPR applies. The same applies to surveillance of vehicles or boats used in your business.
Video surveillance inside your residence
Video surveillance inside your residence normally falls under the domestic purpose exemption. This also applies if the cameras are connected to an alarm centre. The domestic purpose exemption also applies if your surveillance on rare occasions would film someone, e.g. a carpenter working inside your residence as long as the purpose of the surveillance is not to monitor this specific person working. In general, it is the purpose of the surveillance and the use of the material that determines whether or not the GDPR applies. There might be situations where video surveillance inside of your residence does not fall within the exemption.
The domestic purpose exemption generally applies when all of the following conditions are met
- The video surveillance is run by you as a physical individual, or by e.g. a relative at your request, as part of a purely personal activity
- The video surveillance is limited to your residence or property and does not cover any area to which the public has access
- The purpose is not to share the material from the video surveillance, e.g. on the internet or on social media.
The domestic purpose exemption – some examples
Video surveillance of roads on your propertyExample
An owner of a private property wants to use video surveillance on their own property to see that no vandalism takes place. The cameras will cover roads that run through the property and that are used by the general public. Some of the roads are also community roads and some are servitude roads used by other properties. Does this video surveillance fall under the domestic purpose exemption?
Answer: No. If a private property owner use video surveillance on grounds and roads that are also used by the general public, the domestic purpose exemption does generally not apply. This applies regardless of any usage right, i.e. roads under servitude or not. This means that the property owner needs to comply with the GDPR and that a legal ground needs to be in place for the surveillance to be lawful. The most common legal ground used in this context is legitimate interest. This means balancing the need of video surveillance against the violation of persons’ privacy that the video surveillance entails. The violation to peoples’ privacy is greater in places where many people pass through and in connection to their home.
Game camera for the purpose of hunting on your own groundsExample
A private property owner wants to use game cameras for hunting on their own grounds. At times members of the general public pass through the grounds to use their right of public access. Does this video surveillance fall under the domestic purpose exemption?
Answer: No. If members of the general public risk being monitored when residing on private property to use their right to public access the video surveillance must comply with the rules of the GDPR and the Swedish Camera Act. If it is not possible to identify anyone in the material from the video surveillance no processing of personal data is taking place and the rules on data protection do not apply.
Video surveillance using a door or peephole camera in an apartment buildingExample
A residence of an apartment building has put up a door/peephole camera or their door for security purposes. Does this surveillance fall under the domestic purpose exemption?
Answer: No. If the surveillance takes place from a door to an apartment where people passing in the stairs or neighbour’s apartments risk being filmed the rules of the GDPR apply. The surveillance can be lawful using legitimate interest as a legal ground if all of the following conditions are met:
- The camera is only activated when someone rings the doorbell and is only active for a very limited period of time.
- No image or audio is recorded.
- The area being covered by the camera is very limited.
Video surveillance of your car and using a dashcamExample
A private citizen wants to use video surveillance on their car when it is parked on the driveway to their house. They also want to use a dashcam or built-in camera when it is parked in public spaces to gather evidence in case of a burglary or collision. Only the car is under surveillance. Does this surveillance fall under the domestic purpose exemption?
Answer: In general, private citizens can use video surveillance of their garage and driveway and it falls within the scope of the domestic purpose exemption, as long as any area to which the public has access doesn’t comes into frame. It does, however, not fall under the domestic purpose exemption to use a dashcam when the car is parked in public spaces. In such situations you must comply with the GDPR and inform of the surveillance etc.
Take due care choosing the area filmed by your camera
Since the domestic purpose exemption only applies to video surveillance limited to the directly personal sphere and does not apply to areas to which the public has access it is important to take due care when pointing your camera.
If you discover that you unintendedly filmed an area outside of your property you can correct it by pointing your camera differently or digitally masking the area.
Examples of areas that are easy to miss:
- Areas of your neighbours’ property visible over a fence.
- A pavement outside of your driveway.
- A lake where boats may pass by.
- A property far away visible over a hedge or fence.
If you are using video surveillance of an area outside of your property and consider it being unlikely that any processing of personal data would occur you need to be aware of the following:
- It is difficult to use video surveillance of areas to which the public has access without risking filming an identifiable person or personal data.
- Personal data is a vide notion and entails everything except data that cannot at all be used to identify someone. It is personal data even if someone is identifiable only combined with other data or if any aid is necessary.
Video surveillance with audio recording
Audio recording can entail personal data. If your surveillance leads to personal data being processed through audio recordings from your neighbour’s property or an area to which the public has access the GDPR applies. To be able to record audio you need substantial cause to do so since this is considered to be privacy sensitive. Your need to record audio must weigh heavier than the monitored persons’ interest in not being under video surveillance recording audio as well.
About the information on this page
If the information in English is different from the Swedish version of this page, the Swedish version applies.