In my personal view, drivers in Portugal are no better, or worse, than many other countries. Like most other countries, you will find sane, and insane drivers. Probably by far, the worst are the impatient drivers, who just can’t wait to overtake, whatever the risk they put their, and others, lives to. People frequently complain that the police don’t do anything about this. The problem is they can’t be everywhere, the police just don’t have the resources to patrol every road.

Would dash cams help bring bad drivers to court?

I noticed recently that the UK police have a National Dash Cam Safety Portal. It is now being used by 33 forces, which have collectively received over 30,000 uploads in total since 2018, when it was launched. These frequently result in fines, points on the offenders driving licence, or even loss of their driver’s licence. It’s hard to find any valid reason why these are not legal in Portugal

Why are dash cams against the law?

The use of dash cams in public is illegal in Portugal due to privacy laws, and if you are caught using one, you will pay heavy fines for breaking the law. This is because you cannot take a video of someone’s private property like their car or house. This argument falls apart when you realise that closed circuit cameras (CCTV) are now being installed in many cities. In the Algarve these are being installed in Faro and Portimão, and further afield. There is a police control centre in Faro which monitors these cameras. Number plate recognition is now being predicted, the software is available and is already in use in many EU countries.

It seems the privacy law doesn’t cover these new cameras. This makes no sense at all. Apparently, the court in Portugal has ruled that dash cams are an invasion of privacy. What about CCTV cameras now being installed around many cities?

Why is CCTV legal when dash cams are not?

In 2018 the laws were amended regarding CCTV cameras. The government announced some relaxation in the complex laws covering the private installation of video surveillance cameras and broadly is following the new European data protection legislation which came into effect on 25 May 2018.

The new rules mean that any person or company can install a video surveillance system without prior authorisation from the National Commission for Data Protection, as long as cameras don’t point at a public road. Please note, can’t point at a public road. CCTV cameras being installed in cities do point at the road and the pavement. Does that mean the government can do this, but you can’t?

The installation of CCTV is spreading fast. It was reported earlier this year that the municipalities of Guimarães, Famalicão and Braga will proceed with the installation of video surveillance systems in the streets.

The law seems to be completely confused. There is a very comprehensive paper you can find on the internet, ‘Video surveillance versus privacy in Portugal’. They quote an instance where a pharmaceutical company wanted to install cameras covering the production of pharmaceuticals to avoid theft. There is a quote which says it all: ‘In the event that the cameras capture images of an employee committing a certain criminal act that may give rise to fair dismissal, the employer is denied access to the images’. They were refused permission to install the cameras, noting that if the cameras recorded an employee performing something that should lead to their dismissal, theft or suchlike, then the employer could not have access to the recording.

Meanwhile, it’s ok to install CCTV in the streets so the police can identify crime. The police are seeking a change in the data protection law that will enable them to identify vehicles, record their number plate, and identify the owner. The best that can be said is that the privacy laws need a serious revision and clarification.

You can find an article covering recent changes in Portugal here. It’s written by the International Association of Privacy Professionals

CCTV in public places reduces crime

There seems little question that properly used CCTV is essential to help the police prevent crime or to identify criminal acts quickly and efficiently. The UK government says: ’There is little evidence to suggest that these systems help to deter crime, however, CCTV footage plays a major role in responding to incidents, investigating crimes and prosecuting those responsible. Such footage is useful in both low-level crime cases and high-profile incidents. So CCTV doesn’t deter crime, but certainly helps solve it. As normal (I hope) law-abiding citizens we should welcome CCTV on the streets where appropriate. It’s for our benefit and safety.

Dash cams could be a real contribution to road safety

I can’t see a valid reason why dash cams should be illegal in Portugal. I can see that they might be a major contribution to road safety. We all see things that the police don’t see. Changing the law and developing a website to upload images to will be a bit of a challenge, but Portugal has some top-class web technicians. Perhaps it’s time to start ‘campaigning’ to see the law changed.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman