The Belgian Privacy Commission (“BPC”) recently addressed the privacy implications concerning the use of dashboard cameras (“dashcams”) in cars. The use of a dashcam to film traffic constitutes the processing of images (in the light of advice no 34/1999 of 13 December 1999), where personal data (e.g., a license plate) can be registered. This would imply that the dashcam user, as data controller, is bound by the obligations of the Belgian Data Protection Act of 8 December 1992  (“BDPA”). However, not every use of a dashcam falls within the scope of the BDPA. The BPC makes the distinction between (i) dashcams for recreational use, (ii) dashcams for use as evidence in the event of a collision of cars, and (iii) dashcams used in the interior of a taxi.

First, Article 3, §2 BDPA exempts an individual’s recreational use of a dashcam if the video images are solely used for “personal and domestic purposes.” Thus, a dashcam’s recreational use is acceptable if the video footage is only viewed by a certain well-defined group of family members, acquaintances, and friends of the individual user. Publishing the video footage on a publicly accessible website (or even on Facebook) falls outside the definition of “personal and domestic purposes”, so that the requirements of the BDPA will apply.

Second, the BPC elaborates on the use of dashcams for evidential purposes in the event of a collision. The recording of video footage during a car collision does not constitute the processing of personal data, but rather the processing of legal personal data. Legal personal data processing is expressly excluded from the BDPA. However, the BPC allows for an exception, and that is, it permits the processing of information concerning suspicions, prosecutions, and convictions by any person for the purposes of handling his/her own dispute. The BPC states that the data controller must inform the subject of the footage immediately after the accident, should the people involved in the collision communicate with each other after the accident. In addition, the dashcam user will be required to file a privacy notification to the BPC.

Finally, the BPC describes the use of dashcams in taxis. These dashcams are intended to protect the driver or to record a possible theft or act of vandalism. In these circumstances, a dashcam is seen as a surveillance camera in a private place which is accessible to the public. Thus, this use does not fall under the BDPA, but rather within the scope of the Act of 21 March 2007 regulating the installation and use of surveillance cameras (“Belgian Camera Act”).  The Belgian Camera Act stipulates that taxis equipped with a dashcam must exhibit a uniform icon so that customers are aware that they are being filmed. The data controller, either the employer or the taxi driver himself, will have to inform or notify the BPC and the chief of police of its decision to use a dashcam the day before it commissions the use of the camera.

The explicative notice can be found on http://www.privacycommission.be