Response from Virgin Trains

After my post a few days ago in response to the responses from Virgin Trains that seemed to confirm the presence of CCTV cameras in toilets, I have received an e-mail from their customer services team to clarify what they actually should have said:

Dear Mr Blythe,

Thank you for your e-mail.

I can confirm that we do not have CCTV cameras located in the toilets on board our trains. We do have CCTV located in some toilets at our stations; these are obviously directed away from toilet cubicles and urinals for privacy reasons and are focussed on the sink and entrance areas as part of our efforts to prevent anti-social and criminal behaviour. Signage is in place advising customers if there is CCTV installed. 

I trust this allays your concerns and I am sorry for any misunderstanding.

Yours sincerely

– redacted – 

Customer Relations

All of the online furore could have been avoided if Virgin had issued a clear statement on the issue from the outset, rather than having different arms of their organisation saying different things – and squashing a sensitive issue into 140 character Twitter replies.

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Dear Virgin Trains, stop watching me in the toilet

So thanks to users on Twitter, it appears that Virgin Trains are back up to their old tricks of using CCTV cameras in their toilets – confirming this in their responses.

When they were called out on this on Twitter, they flippantly responded that we shouldn’t worry, as the ‘cameras are angled so they don’t see anything they’re not supposed to!‘ – link goes through to the original tweet.

Uhh, right.

Amongst those to wade in was Nick Pickles of BigBrotherWatch, who helpfully pointed out that the Information Commissioner’s guidance on CCTV says this with relation to the use of cameras in toilets:

‘In areas where people have a heightened expectation of privacy, such as changing rooms or toilet areas, cameras should only be used in the most exceptional circumstances where it is necessary to deal with very serious concerns. In these cases, you should make extra effort to ensure that those under surveillance are aware.’

I wonder what these ‘exceptional circumstances’ could be… peeing on the seat perhaps? I fail to see any credible reason to have CCTV cameras in train toilets, even if they really are ‘angled away’ (in which case what is the point?).

I submitted a query via Virgin’s website, but it was unclear whether or not the form had actually been submitted, so to make it easier for others who wish to question what the hell is going on, you can e-mail the company direct at customer.relations@virgintrains.co.uk – and whilst you’re at it, bring it to the attention of the ICO via mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk.

If you’ve got Twitter, you can make your feelings clear to @VirginTrains and @ICONews

With conflicting statements being made throughout the day, Virgin should make it crystal clear exactly what the situation is with regards to the use of cameras to monitor sensitive areas.