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Dash cams and the Privacy Act Charles Mabbett
15 January 2015

camera edit

When a new technology grows in popularity, we inevitably get media enquiries on its possible impact on privacy. Last year, it was drones and so far this year, there has been a fair amount of interest in car dashboard cameras or dash cams.

Helpfully, the Privacy Act is a technology neutral piece of legislation. In other words, it gives us the basic principles by which we can make an assessment on the privacy implications of any emerging technology. You can find out more about the Act’s 12 information privacy principles here.

The Privacy Act is all about the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information. Personal information is defined in the Act as information about an "identifiable individual".

When a new way of recording and sharing information arrives and grows in popularity, we usually explain that we have to look at what information is being collected and how this information is likely to be shared or disclosed. If it is not information about an identifiable individual, it falls outside the ambit of the Privacy Act.

This, by and large, is the case with dash cams. Dashboard cameras capture images of travel and vehicles in public places. They do not usually capture clear images of other drivers by which they can be readily identified. But with a dash cam you are going to be collecting a lot of ‘background footage’. This background footage is likely to be made up in part of some personal information.

Dash cams will capture car number plates, and while it is no longer the case that owner details are readily available through the Motor Vehicle Register to all members of the public, there is a process where a person can access the ownership information of another car.

The process requires a person to make a request to NZTA for the name and address of a car owner. The agency then considers this against the criteria contained in the Official Information Act. It requires the NZTA to weigh up the public interest in releasing the information sought against the privacy rights of the individual concerned.

The NZTA website says public interest usually means for the common good or general welfare. Each case is determined on its own merits. A request for a registered person's name and address is made by making an online application. A fee of $15 is payable. This at least restricts the ability to access another car owner’s details.

Our advice to people wanting to upload video taken by dash cam (and this also applies to CCTV and drone footage) is to consider carefully why you might need to do this. If there is a compelling reason, you also need to think about how to edit out or mask the number plates of other cars, or images of passers-by.

If you see examples of dangerous or bad driving, uploading the footage to YouTube is not necessarily the best way of drawing attention to it. A more effective option might be to give the footage to Police.

There are good reasons why a driver might want to have dash cam. They can be useful in collecting evidence when traffic accidents happen and to resolve insurance disputes. They can also be used to report bad and dangerous drivers and they can identify misuse, such as in the case of the Auckland valet driver.

But people need to be responsible in how they use the information that dash cams collect and to think carefully about posting footage online for everyone else to see.

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  • I don't understand why it should have to edit out number plates and people's faces. Unless the person is driving in a private area, all the information collected on a dashcam is public, not private, and observable by any member of the public who happens to be in the vicinity. Putting it on youtube doesn't seem to change the nature of the information collected. Could you please explain further?

    Posted by Tim, 02/02/2015 10:40am (3 years ago)

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    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Hi Tim,

    technically you are correct. It is information collected from a public place and most of it is not about an identifiable individual which is what the Privacy Act covers. While it does not breach the Privacy Act to publish dash cam videos taken on public roads, people can still ask themselves why they feel the need to publish videos publicly, and also how they would feel if others were to publicly post images of them.

    Sharing other people’s personal information on the internet and social media is very easy to do. It is also retrievable and preserved, sometimes permanently. Just because you can, does that mean you should? And if you do still want to, what steps can you take to be considerate to others?

    Charles

    Posted by OPC, 03/02/2015 11:03am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • According to NZ Police, it seems like there wouldn't be any legal problems with posting dash-cam footage, assuming that one is recording in a public place with no expectation of privacy:

    What are the rules around taking photos or filming in a public place?

    It is generally lawful to take photographs of people in public places without their consent. However, you must not film or take photos of people if they are in a place where they can expect privacy (such as a public changing area or toilet) and that person:

    • is naked, in underclothes, showering, toileting etc
    • is unaware of being filmed or photographed
    • has not given consent to be filmed or photographed.

    You should not take photos of people if:

    • they are in a place where they would expect reasonable privacy and publication would be highly offensive to an objective and reasonable person
    • it has potential to stop other people's use and enjoyment of the same place
    • you have no legitimate reason for taking the film or photos.

    However, you can take and/or publish photos or film of people where there is no expectation of privacy, such as a beach, shopping mall, park or other public place.

    http://www.police.govt.nz/faq/what-are-the-rules-around-taking-photos-or-filming-in-a-public-place

    Posted by Atom, 05/05/2015 11:03am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • What about work vehicles. I'm a truck driver and ex veteran. My company has a separate cam pointed at the driver so I literally have a camera in my face! Now if these videos were just use for accidents or tickets I might be persuaded to accept them but they are truly over your shoulder. For example my pens are on visor and everything I do I enter into my journal to make it easier I lower my visor which obstructs the driver cam from my face only so I have been threatening to remove my visor which means I wouldn't be able to use it during sunset sunrise! Which screams my privacy is violated and outs crazy that my company would rather invade my privacy and blind it's driver!

    Posted by Matt Erwin, 17/10/2015 11:36am (2 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • I was wondering what the Privacy Act says about driver facing dash cam as well. I drive a semi and live in my truck. The company says they are putting them in and I live in the truck for 3 weeks at a time.

    Posted by Kyle , 16/05/2016 6:54am (19 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Hi Kyle,

    while this type of camera could described as a dashcam, we feel it is more a camera in the workplace type of issue. We do have guidance on what employers should consider if they are thinking of installing CCTV cameras in a workplace.

    Under the Privacy Act, employers should inform their employees about cameras, and they should also give a clear reason for using one.

    You can find this information in our Privacy at Work guide: https://privacy.org.nz/news-and-publications/books-and-articles/privacy-at-work-a-guide-to-the-privacy-act-for-employers-and-employees/

    The pages that are most relevant to you begin at page 29. You could also consider making a complaint to our office if you want us to look into your situation.

    Information about making a complaint to us can be found here: https://privacy.org.nz/your-privacy/how-to-complain/

    You can also call one of our enquiries officers to discuss your options at this number - 0800 803 909 (during office hours).

    I hope this helps.

    Posted by Charles, 16/05/2016 12:49pm (19 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • I was fired by safety debt, told to get the H.... out of his office in front of a supervisor and to men outside his office. Basically, I was fedup with the company constant bullying and spoke my opinion. The safety mng. fired me because I smacked the camera, I wasn't in a accident, the camera came on when I was sliding the truck trailer tandems. I was stressed from the tandems not sliding. And smacked the camera because I felt my privacy was being invaded. Left out on the streets, no money to get home, 1300 miles away. Over stupid camera. Company cared more about the camera than my life.

    Posted by Laura Cable, 14/08/2016 3:25pm (16 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Hi I have just been told by the company I work for that we will have dash cams installed. for insurance and safety purposes. My concern is that while a company car these are also used for personal use (not a truck etc.) in off hours. How is it that a) a company can just all of a sudden roll out dash cams, don't you have to sign anything or give consent? b) my understanding of how dash cams work is that they record any time the car is on...meaning any of my weekend or out of work time is also recorded. Am I wrong in seeing this as a huge invasion of privacy?

    Posted by Kate, 18/01/2017 10:55pm (11 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Let's say a vehicle fitted with dash cam happens to capture a red light runner and decided to send the video footage to the police with rego plate clearly visible, will the police do something and chase the bad driver and issue that person a ticket?

    Posted by Alex, 15/02/2017 7:36pm (10 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Hi Alex,

    our advice to people who capture someone on video or camera who is breaking the law is to take the visual evidence to the Police (and not to publish it online for everyone to see). We can't answer your question as to whether the Police will act on the evidence. That's up to them, depending on the case.

    You can also call *555 and report a bad driver: http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/driving-and-road-safety/report-bad-driver

    Charles

    Posted by Charles, 16/02/2017 9:10am (10 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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