Vumacan unpacks the expectation of privacy

18th August 2020

JOBURG– The primary issue that Vumacam has however experienced is not necessarily around the technology itself but the challenges brought to one’s privacy.

Concerns around Vumacam’s balance between privacy and crime fighting have always been a hot topic of discussion.

Vumacam offers CCTV deployment and surveillance technology, and their network of pole-mounted street cameras have been helping law enforcement and security companies to fight crime. The cameras flag unusual behaviour and licence plates of vehicles that have previously been linked to a crime.

To better help the public understand how the organisation operates, Vumacam CEO Ricky Croock sat down with digital media law expert Emma Sadleir and corporate advisor James McCormack in a webinar on 4 August.

According to Croock, Vumacam has only been interested in understanding situational awareness to assist private security companies, the Metro police and the police. “We then give it [the information] to the various security companies who can then validate it, assess if they need to dispatch a vehicle or not,” he said.

Police provincial spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed that the police service had relied on CCTV footage in a number of occurrences. “We collaborate with a variety of private entities or individuals who usually come forward in response to our calls to the public to assist with information that could assist in the investigation of crimes,” she explained.

McCormack noted that Vumacam had framed its policies and operations in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popi Act). The technology did not utilise any facial recognition software andm as such, had not violated any laws in the Popi Act.

While the Popi Act is constructed around what people could do with personal information, Sadleir added that what people deemed personal and private all came down to expectation of privacy.

“Over the last few decades the law has come up with a common law test for privacy which basically says that if I can show that I have a legitimate expectation of privacy in a particular set of circumstances and somebody infringes on it, I can sue them,” explained Sadleir.

She added that the expectation of privacy could also change based on the circumstances and when dealing with this there were two defences – consent and public interest. “In the case of Vumacam, when infringing on the privacy of a criminal there is a huge public interest override.”

The law does, however, continues to play catch up when it comes to communication technology but there have been a number of developments. “Today, we essentially treat online and digital content as we would public content in any space. What I say on Facebook will be treated exactly the same way as if I had written it in newspaper or on a poster.”

She concluded, “The principals are there and they are good but it is a question of how are we going to apply these very old laws to these very new ways of communicating and living.”

Source: Midrand Reporter