Shhh! you could be on the watch as a British local government council is introducing camera to be fixed in all taxis, so they can monitor conversations in the local government area.
The local government council is been lambasted, accused of a ‘staggering invasion of privacy’ after announcing it plans to record every conversation that takes place in taxi cabs. Oxford City Council will fit all of its 652 taxis with at least one CCTV camera to record all conversations between passengers from the moment the engine starts running.
Civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch has said it will complain to the Information Commissioner over the scheme.
The authority said complaints against both taxi drivers and passengers had increased year on year and without CCTV the allegations ‘amount to one persons word against the other’. Complaints included overcharging, sexual assaults and attacks on drivers.
The spokeswoman added: ‘Oxford City Council considers that so long as clear notices are provided in vehicles which inform passengers that video and audio recording may be taking place, the risk of intrusion is acceptable compared to the public safety benefits.
‘In any event, the level of privacy reasonably to be expected in a licensed vehicle is far lower than that expected in the privacy of one’s home or own car.’ She added that the footage will not be routinely viewed, but will be kept for 28 days on a CCTV hard-drive in case it is needed following a specific incident.
CCTV: Oxford City Council said as long as clear notices appear in all taxis the ‘risk of intrusion is acceptable’ The policy will also be kept under review for the 107 black cabs and 545 private hire vehicles in the city.
She said the council will pay £100 towards the £400 cost of installing the camera for cabs licensed before April 2012, at a cost of £65,200. Taxi owners will have to fund the additional £300 themselves.
A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said it is not normally justified to use CCTV to record conversations between members of the public as ‘it is highly intrusive’.
But she added that council applications to install cameras in cabs are likely to be acceptable because of the number of crimes being committed in taxis. An ICO spokeswoman said: ‘Licensing authorities must take account of people’s right to privacy when deciding whether to impose CCTV as a licence condition for taxi drivers.
‘As well as assessing the impact on privacy, we have accepted they [councils] can take into account factors such as the likelihood of crimes being committed against drivers and passengers; the vulnerable one-to-one situation; the fact that taxis are travelling all over the area at different times of day; and CCTV can protect both the driver and passengers.’
All taxis licensed for the first time by Oxford City Council must have the equipment installed from April 6 next year, while cabs which are already registered will have until April 2015 to get the camera fitted, the council said