– September 7, 2022

How do I defend myself against video surveillance by neighbours?

We live in a terraced house. Our direct neighbours installed a video camera a few days ago. A sticker on the garage indicates the video camera. We would like to know what exactly they are filming and how far the range of these cameras is. Can we take legal action if necessary?

When private individuals install and use video cameras, such actions are subject to the Data Protection Act (DSG) if specific or identifiable persons are recognisable on the recordings. Surveillance by a video camera can constitute an interference with the fundamental right of personal freedom (Art. 10 para. 2 BV) and in particular with privacy (Art. 13 BV). Video surveillance may only be used if this encroachment is proportionate. First of all, according to Art. 13 para. 1 FADP, the consent of the persons concerned, an overriding private or public interest or a law are required, which justifies the use of the cameras. Surveillance must also be suitable for achieving the intended purpose of security or the protection of persons and/or property. If there are other measures that are less intrusive on the privacy of the persons concerned, such as alarm systems or additional locks, these must be used.

Only necessary images

Your neighbour must therefore be very careful about his need for surveillance. For example, he must take special care that the camera is installed in such a way that only the images that are absolutely necessary for the purpose can be seen in the recording, or that only these images fall within the recording angle of the camera. In addition, video surveillance by private individuals must always relate to their own property.

Only if the neighbours concerned give their consent may the neighbouring property also be filmed. As a matter of principle, private individuals may not monitor public spaces with cameras as the responsibility for security and order in public space lies with the police.


No right of inspection

The Data Protection Act does not provide for preventive access to video recordings for concerned neighbours. However, if the surveillance is likely to violate the personality of the persons concerned, they can defend themselves in court on the basis of the Data Protection Act and the Civil Code and claim that the violation is not justified either by their consent or by an overriding private or public interest or by the law. The plaintiff can already have a threatened infringement prohibited if he or she is able to name concrete indications for this. In addition, the plaintiff may request that an existing infringement be removed or that the unlawfulness of an infringement be established if it continues to have a disturbing effect. This can be assumed to be the case directly in the entrance area of private premises (flat).

For the time being, talk to your neighbours about the video camera. If your neighbours continue to refuse to provide information, the only way to enforce the protection of privacy is through legal action.

An article by Reto von Glutz, lic. iur., attorney at law, published as a guide by Luzerner Zeitung.