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LCQ19: Closed-circuit television systems in schools

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (April 17):


     According to media reports, some schools have installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems in classrooms, and students, members of the education sector and human rights organisations have criticised that this practice might infringe on the privacy of students. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) whether they know if the schools concerned had consulted the stakeholders before installing CCTV systems in classrooms and assessed the impact of such practice on the privacy of students; whether they know the clarity of the facial images recorded in the CCTV systems in these schools, and whether the school authorities had complied with the Guidance on CCTV Surveillance Practices issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data;

(b) whether they know the total number of schools (including kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools) which have installed or are installing CCTV systems in classrooms as at March this year, and the average number of CCTV cameras installed in classrooms by such schools; the number of schools which had installed CCTV systems in classrooms but subsequently stopped using them;

(c) whether the authorities currently have measures in place to ensure that schools install CCTV systems in the school premises only under the circumstances that the installation will not infringe the privacy of students; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) whether the authorities have issued guidelines to schools concerning the installation of CCTV systems to remind them of the procedure which schools are required to follow, including regulation of the security and retention period as well as restrictions on transfer to third parties of the data collected; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Our reply to the question raised is consolidated below.

     The Education Bureau (EDB) reminds schools of the points to note in their daily operation, in particular matters related to the compliance with relevant legal requirements (for example protection of personal data and privacy), through various means such as the School Administration Guide, circulars and the EDB website. Chapters 3 and 8 of the School Administration Guide set out guidelines on student safety, student records and school security measures for their reference. In specific terms, schools should handle student records in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. Moreover, schools should also formulate their security policy based on an environmental analysis and take appropriate security measures that fit their situation best. To ensure students' safety in school premises, school heads should assign members of staff to be on duty during recesses, lunch time and at the end of school sessions.

     The EDB does not provide guidelines specifically on installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems in school premises. Schools should decide what measures should be adopted in the light of their actual needs while observing relevant legal requirements. If a school considers installation of CCTV systems or covert monitoring a necessary means to prevent crime having regard to its special environmental circumstances, measures it takes to that end should comply with the Guidance on CCTV Surveillance Practices published by the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, and there should be a reasonable balance between security and privacy. In case of doubt, advice should be sought from relevant law enforcement agencies, including making enquiries to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data on matters of necessary procedures, data security, duration of data retention as well as data transfer, so as to ensure that privacy of students and related parties will not be unduly affected by installation of CCTV systems.

     CCTV systems are not standard items of school equipment. According to the aforesaid principles, installation of CCTV systems is a school-based decision to be made on a case-by-case basis. As such, the EDB does not have information about installation of CCTV systems in individual schools. Nevertheless, we have reminded schools in our routine liaison with them that the relevant guidelines issued by the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data must be observed when they consider installing CCTV systems or use them in school premises. For cases known to us, we have approached the schools concerned to look into the matter. As reported by these schools, they have all followed the Guidance on CCTV Surveillance Practices issued by the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and assessed the impact of their CCTV systems on personal privacy.

     The EDB will continue to enhance and update relevant guidelines according to the development and needs of society, and remind schools of matters that they need to note and observe in their daily operation.

Ends/Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:03


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