New Zealand Law Society - Dummy security camera causes privacy investigation

Dummy security camera causes privacy investigation

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A complaint that a security camera overlooking a neighbour's property could film their activity was investigated by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which discovered that the camera was a dummy.

The Privacy Commissioner has released a case note about the investigation. Until the nature of the camera was revealed, the Privacy Commissioner had noted that its presence could raise issues under principles 1, 3 and 4 of the Privacy Act 1993.

The neighbours were not on good terms when the security camera was set up. It overlooked parts of the complainants' property.

"The couple said the camera was an intrusion into their privacy because it could record their activity 'every minute of the day and night'. At night time it appeared the camera was operated by a motion sensor because a red light would flash on and off when either of the couple moved or adjusted their blinds," the case note says.

"We contacted the neighbours who owned the house with the CCTV camera and explained the nature of the complaint. We notified them that the complaint could raise issues under principles 1, 3 and 4 of the Privacy Act. These principles set out an agency’s obligations when collecting personal information. Principle 1 says an agency must have a lawful purpose, connected with its function, for collecting personal information; principle 3 sets out what an agency must tell an individual before it collects their personal information; and principle 4 says information should not be collected in a manner that is unlawful or unreasonably intrusive."

The neighbours explained that the camera was a cheap plastic dummy camera, used as an "intruder deterrent".

"We accepted the assurances given by the neighbours and went back to the complainants. We explained there was no evidence their neighbours were collecting any personal information because the camera was a dummy camera to deter burglars. In the circumstances, we had reached the end of our process and were unable to take any action. The complainants were satisfied by this and thanked us for our work on their complaint and we closed the file."