Pictures and Video

Pictures and video are not exempt from GDPR. While GDPR is not designed to stop you from recording services or taking pictures of church events, it does ask that you are very careful about what you do with these images, whether moving or still.

Taking photographs

You do not necessarily need consent to take a picture or video of someone inside the church, or at a church event, as most of the time this will count as a public place. UK law allows you to take photos in a public place. However, if the person could have a reasonable expectation of privacy (for example, a support group, pastoral meeting or other more intimate setting) then you would need to get their consent.

Displaying photographs

As churches, we need to take extra care with images or video which identify people as Christians, as this comes under special category data. This also applies if the images identify someone's political affiliation or other special characteristic. If you would like to display these images, you will need to consider who is going to see them.

GDPR allows churches to process special category data under the 'legitimate interest' lawful basis, so long as they do not share the data outside the church body. So, you may not need to get consent to display pictures which contain special category data so long as you are only displaying them inside the church. 

However, if you wanted to put the pictures on your website (remember, this is only for pictures which contain special category or other sensitive data) you should get consent from anyone who is identifiable. This is because you will be broadcasting the images outside the church.

Video-streaming services

The same restrictions apply to moving images as to still. If the video is going to identify the people in it through special category or other data then you must get consent before broadcasting the video.

This does not apply to people in the worship team who are working on behalf of the church, and are therefore representing the Data Controller. It applies to Data Subjects, i.e. individuals whose data the church holds, in this case, in the form of a video of them worshipping Christ. Because religion comes under special category data, you must get consent before sharing that video outside the church body. You may not, conversely, need consent to put it up on a closed (private) church members only Facebook group, so long as you have mentioned Facebook in your Privacy Policy and list of Data Processors.

Some churches may routinely video special services, for example weddings and christenings, in order to provide the family with a copy. There is no issue with doing this, but if you are going to share the video outside of the church body (for example, if you want to put it on your website) you must gain permission. The family can show the video to whomever they like; churches need only be concerned about what happens to data within their own control.

Do these restrictions apply to every photo or video taken inside the church?

No. A picture of someone inside St Paul's Cathedral does not necessarily identify them as a Christian. Neither does a video of someone attending a wedding or christening. However, pictures or video of someone being baptised, receiving Communion, or otherwise actively engaging in worship would do so.

Even if the image does not contain any special category data, you should also consider if any other identifying information is visible, e.g. a car numberplate from an image obtained using CCTV. 

What about large-scale faith-based events like conferences or festivals?

Based on a conversation we had with the ICO, they recognise that it is not always feasible to get individual consent from everyone attending a large faith-based event. In addition, attending such an event does not necessarily identify someone's faith or other special category statistic, and it will almost certainly count as a public place, in which case UK law allows photography and videography.

In this case, they advise that you take the following steps:

  • At the point of booking, make attendees aware that photos/videos will be taken

  • At the event, have signs reminding people that photos/videos may be taken

  • If possible, have some areas in which photography is not allowed

  • Get consent before photographing or videoing any situation in which the subject could have a reasonable expectation of privacy

  • Consider the special category data content of photos and videos before you display or stream them and get consent at that point, if you need it

  • Document your decision-making process

  • Let attendees know who they should contact if they have any concerns

If you are not sure, the best practice is always to get consent. However, that consent will only be valid if it is freely and explicitly given, documented, and you do not create or use images for any other purpose than the one for which consent was given.

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