Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Councils and CCTV

Over the past decades, local authorities have put up hundreds, possibly thousands, of CCTV cameras as part of traffic management and community safety programmes. What gets watched and who has access to the footage varies by council. The result? City council cameras staring into people's homes and bedrooms, with the footage available to any plod who wants it:

The privacy commissioner is to question all councils on how they collect and store CCTV footage, after it was discovered that cameras in Lower Hutt had been able to film inside private homes for years.

Live and recorded footage from Hutt City Council's 29 cameras near the city centre could be viewed by anyone in the Lower Hutt police station, without a secure log-on. About half a dozen of the cameras could be swivelled remotely towards houses.

An audit by Security Risk Management, commissioned by the council, found: "There was an absence of privacy masking, enabling some street surveillance cameras to undertake surveillance inside private homes."

The surveillance risked flouting five principles of the Privacy Act and the Bill of Rights, according to the report.

The council says that no breach occurred, because there's no evidence. But where people's privacy is concerned, that's not good enough, and so they've been forced to install privacy masking, access limits, and warning signs in areas under surveillance. More importantly, the Privacy Commissioner is also investigating every local authority in New Zealand, to see whether they being used in accordance with the Privacy Act. Hopefully it won't turn up any more disasters like this.