Camera Surveillance at School

An ever larger number of cameras are being installed at schools, e.g. to prevent vandalism or theft. But a school cannot install cameras just like that. It is only allowed to do so if the school meets a number of conditions. Hidden cameras are only allowed in very exceptional cases.

Legitimate Interest
The school must have a so-called legitimate interest in the camera surveillance. This could be the protection of properties, students, teachers, or visitors.

Need for Camera Surveillance
Camera surveillance at a school will only be allowed if it is necessary, meaning that the school is unable to achieve the goal otherwise. Is there no other possibility that is less invasive of privacy? Also, the camera surveillance cannot be used by itself. It should be part of a total package of measuresn.

Privacy Review
The school should first conduct a privacy review. This means that the school should weigh the interests of students, teachers, and visitors against its own interests. In addition, the school should previously discuss the plans with the representative advisory council.

Obligation to Notify Camera Surveillance
The school should make sure that students, teachers, and visitors know that there is a camera, e.g. by putting up signs. If the school fails to do so, it may be punishable.

Retention period for Footage
The school may not keep the camera footage for more than 4 weeks. However, if an incident, such as theft, has been recorded, the school may retain the footage until the case has been handled.

Is a school allowed to use a hidden camera?

No, this is not normally allowed. However, in case of clear suspicions of theft or fraud committed by students or teachers, the school may use a hidden camera (secret camera surveillance) under certain conditions.

Conditions for Hidden Camera Use
A school may only use a hidden camera if the school has met the following conditions:

  • In spite of various efforts, the school has not managed to put an end to the theft or fraude.
  • Use of the hidden camera is temporary. (Permanent hidden-camera surveillance is not allowed!).
  • The invasion of the privacy of students, teachers, and visitors is kept to a minimum. Camera surveillance in restrooms, for example, crosses the line.
  • Afterwards, the school should inform the students and teachers concerned of the use of the hidden camera.