A new anti-litter campaign initiated by Dublin City Council (the "Council") recently sparked data protection concerns. The Council erected a poster in the Five Lamps area of north Dublin featuring CCTV "still" images of 12 people caught illegally dumping rubbish on the street. Whilst the faces of the 12 individuals were blurred, the individuals concerned (as well as their friends and associates) could have been able to identify themselves due to the poor quality of the images.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner ("ODPC") has confirmed that they have contacted the Council to advise it that the processing of personal data must be done fairly and proportionally and must not be overly prejudicial to a person's right to privacy. The ODPC did not go as far as saying that the still images were in breach of the Data Protection Acts.

In response, the Council has stated that the campaign has been very effective and that it will be making the case that the use of the images is a proportionate response to the issue. Following the success of the campaign, the Council recently announced plans to extend it to more litter black spots in the city. It is yet to be established if the ODPC intends to take any further action against the Council.

All companies and public bodies need to fully consider the provisions of the Data Protection Acts when utilising images of individuals who are capable of identification, for advertising or other such similar purposes.

Organisations operating in Ireland should ensure that it has the necessary safeguards in place to ensure that any personal data processed is done fairly and proportionally and without overly prejudicing the individual's right to privacy.

Submitted by Rowena McCormack and Charlotte Burke of DAC Beachcroft Dublin – Dublin, Republic of Ireland in partnership with DAC Beachcroft LLP