Monday, 16 June 2014

Privacy and CCTV

(First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine October 2013)

The Windhoek Municipality, has recently installed over 70 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in and around the town.  These are to be found in the city centre as well as at the four roadblocks at Brakwater, Heroes Acre and Daan Viljoen and one at the road block on the way to Hosea Kutako International Airport.

According to City Police Senior Superintendent Gerry Shikesho the issue of privacy was discussed and it was found not to be a serious hindrance. “Who would want to do private matters in public places,” he asked during an interview with New Era, adding that the cameras are there to safeguard everybody’s safety. The cameras have varying purposes, which include informing municipal staff of faulty streetlights, crime and fire prevention and detection, traffic management, ensuring quick responses to medical emergencies and detecting infringement of by-laws.

As consumers we have to ask if this is really the case. Has our privacy been respected or is it another attempt at taking away the rights of the individuals privacy?

The Namibian Constitution states in Article 13 states on the right to Privacy:
“(1) No persons shall be subject to interference with the privacy of their homes, correspondence or communications save as in accordance with law and as is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights or freedoms of others.”

The Constitution thus guarantees only “Physical Privacy”. The storage of personal and business information (“Informational Privacy”) as well as the storage of our actions in a public place through the use of CCTV must have legislation that will prevent misuse of this information. In addition, the individual in Namibia must be able to access any, and all, information that is stored by the state or public institutions such as the Municipality of Windhoek. In this regard, City Police Senior Superintendent Gerry Shikesho states, Footage is recorded and stored and police can access it if it is needed for an investigation.” He said footage from the cameras is state evidence and members of the public who wish to view the footage can do so by placing formal requests through the police.

As a consumer magazine, we must once again reiterate that there are two fundamental pieces of legislation that is lacking in Namibia, namely a Data Protection Act; and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations to ensure our “informational rights” are enforced.

Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act will give you the right to know (access) the information being held on you. It also sets certain key principles that anyone who handles personal information must comply with. The Act should also establish an Information Commissioner. The data covered is any information which can be used to identify a living person. This includes names, birthdays, addresses and other contact details. It only refers to information stored on computers.

The key principles of a Data Protection Act must include:
•             Data may only be used for the specific purpose that it was collected;
•             Data may not be shared with others without permission of the individual whom such information is about – unless there is a legitimate reason;
•             It is illegal for other parties to obtain this information without permission;
•             Individuals have the right to the information about them subject to certain conditions;
•             Personal information should not be kept longer than necessary;
•             All businesses that collect personal information must register with the Commissioner; and
•             Incorrect information must be corrected when it is brought to the attention of the data storage business.

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