College to be candid about camera use

The Students’ Union has agreed to sit on a Monitoring Committee which oversees the use of campus CCTV footage. This new position now holds the Students’ Union responsible for ensuring that CCTV footage is used legitimately and that the privacy rights of students, staff and the general public are protected. However, the Monitoring Committee is still entitled to review CCTV footage in certain limited circumstances.

The move was finalised at a meeting of the Board of the College recently, some two years after initial discussions to allow the Union to sit on the committee were mooted, and thirteen years after the original “Code of Practice” for the use of CCTV recommended that the SU President undertake a role in this regard.
By attaining this position, it appears that the Union will be allowed access to footage in restricted circumstances, “for the purpose of ensuring compliance” with the original “1996 Code of Practice”.

However, Union President Cónán Ó’Broin denied this, telling Trinity News that to his knowledge, the SU will not have access to campus CCTV footage in any circumstance. Ó’Broin also pointed out that, although the Students’ Union as an entity has agreed to take a place on the Monitoring Committee, in operation, only the President will sit at the meetings.

“The Students’ Union takes the issue of student privacy very seriously, and we will be there to make sure that it is fully protected”, he added.
Despite the increased number of security cameras around campus in recent years, many busy areas of College still do not come within the system’s coverage. The main entrance to the Berkeley Library is not under surveillance, despite frequent instances of theft.

A senior lecturer has also had a number of items stolen from his ground floor office on campus last May having left a window open.

The Managing Committee only meets by necessity in the case of there being a complaint or a breach of the code of conduct itself according to Ó’Broin. He said that the Managing Committee had not had to meet since at least 2001.

Access to CCTV footage is subject to the authorisation of the Chief Steward of College Security or the Facilities Officer, and only in relation to the investigation of fires, crimes, legal proceedings or serious College offences. The Monitoring Committee, which also includes staff members of College, graduate students and College residents, ensures that cameras are not used in any unauthorised or inappropriate manner – for example, for the intention of monitoring Students’ Union activities in College.

If the Monitoring Committee has evidence that the “Code of Practice” has not been complied with, it refers the matter firstly to the Bursar and College Secretary, and ultimately to the Board of the College. Further amendments to the “Code of Practice” for the use of CCTV footage were introduced at the recent meeting of the Board of the College, although the revised draft was not made available to Trinity News.