Is private CCTV security surveillance breaking the law?

As crime in South Africa escalates home security is becoming a vital part of any house hold. The number of home and business surveillance systems has increase over the last couple of years. As citizens in South Africa we have the right to live in a Secure and safe environment.

 But at what point can a CCTV security system become an illegal activity?

The use of a camera CCTV system at your house is supported by the law if the user’s intentions are for security reasons, such as to catch a suspect or criminal during the case of theft, vandalism, bodily harm etc.

If an individual uses a camera system for reasons other than to be used as evidence in a court of law, such as recording a neighbor's bedroom window as they are dressing. This is breaking the right to human dignity ("Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.") as it is illegal. One should not infringe on basic human rights.

The Protection of personal information Act 4 of 2013 ("POPI") was signed by President Zuma on 19 November 2013. As stated in the preamble, the purpose of POPI was, in line with international standards, to regulate "the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests".

One must ensure that personal information is complete, accurate, not misleading as well as ensure that the data subject is made aware of the personal information being collected, together with other stipulated information. This can be done by providing signage that will inform the data subject that their information is being collected through CCTV.

An individual must ensure that the personal data is safeguarded from persons who can use such information for malicious intents. A data subject has the right to request to confirm whether the party holds personal information about the them, and to request the recording itself. A person may also request to correct or delete personal information that is inaccurate, irrelevant, excessive, out of date, incomplete, misleading, obtained unlawfully, or retained for longer than permitted.  

If one does not infringe on human rights and respect your fellow neighbors, you will not be breaking the law. Be considerate about your neighbors when positioning of your CCTV cameras. Ask the person who is installing your cameras to ensure that only your property or incident scene can be seen. Hikvision is aware that privacy of neighbors is imported so they have given users the option to black out an area of the screen, in order to protect neighbor's privacy. This feature is called Privacy mask and can be found on selected Hikvision DVR/NVR

Respect your fellow neighbors’ dignity and privacy. Help your fellow neighbor with your CCTV system if need be, give your neighbor's the chance to access data if they need evidence. In many cases incidents happen across the street or down the road. If you have access to CCTV footage that will help find a criminal, use it to help a neighbor. It is time us as South African respect each other and fight for security so we can all have a safer and happier future.

Information on privacy and personal information

  • The Protection of Personal Information Act (No.4 of 2013) defines personal information as the information related to an identifiable, living, natural person.
  • The Protection of Personal Information relies on the management of information at every stage of the information life cycle.
  • The incorrect management of personal information may result in a breach of privacy, or the destruction of integrity or accuracy of information.
  • Wigan and Clarke (2006:391) describe the term surveillance as “the systematic investigation or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more persons.” Surveillance is an act of continuous observation of a specific entity:
  • over sustained period of time,
  • for a particular reason,
  • with the aim of ensuring safety and security against unintentional or intentional dangers.
  • Benefits include:
  • The ability to anticipate and detect a criminal act or violation and maintain security
  • Advanced surveillance technologies can also reduce the cost of law enforcement and disaster management
  • Surveillance technologies can assist with evidence gathering
  • Benefit of surveillance is that public confidence is generated through a feeling of safety.
  • Limitations include:
  • Abuse of surveillance technology can be a threat towards personal privacy and individual freedom.
  • Ubiquitous nature of ICTs means that the implementation of mass surveillance has already begun within the daily lives of individuals - leaving little choice
  • Abuse and misuse of surveillance technology can be harmful and a threat towards personal privacy and individual freedom of movement.





Author: Cailan Johnson