Camera surveillance and privacy report

July 31, 2012 - 10:57am

Queensland’s Office of the Information Commissioner compliance review report, Camera Surveillance and Privacy: Review of camera surveillance use by Queensland government agencies and compliance with the privacy principles in the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) was tabled in Parliament today.

The Camera Surveillance review has examined the systemic practice of camera surveillance in Queensland government agencies and the extent to which camera surveillance systems were designed and operated with privacy considerations in mind.

The Camera Surveillance review found that there are more than 20 000 cameras used across the state, by Queensland government agencies, to monitor people in public places, and makes 15 recommendations for agencies to improve compliance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).

Review of camera surveillance use by Queensland government agencies and compliance with the privacy principles in the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld)

The use of camera surveillance systems by government agencies is substantial. In total, Queensland government agencies use more than 20,000 cameras to monitor people in public spaces. As the use of camera surveillance is significant, so too are the implications for privacy.

This review has examined the systemic practice of camera surveillance in Queensland government agencies and the extent to which camera surveillance systems were designed and operated with privacy considerations in mind.

The reviewed camera surveillance systems were generally operated in a practical way, in order to deliver public safety and security, and with respect for privacy. This could be attributed almost entirely to the experience and commitment of the operatives who set up and run the systems. 

However, there were significant privacy-related gaps in the administration of the systems. One common example was the inability for individuals to discover or access footage which contained images of them. Another example was that arrangements with other agencies, particularly the Queensland Police Service, were operating informally, creating ambiguity about management responsibilities, such as ensuring that the use and disclosure of the footage was in accordance with the privacy principles.

Each gap represents a risk, which if left unmanaged, could result in a privacy breach that could significantly affect members of the community. This review found this situation had arisen through a lack of corporate level direction and review and a lack of documented policies and procedures that addressed the complete spectrum of relevant considerations.

This report recommends agencies across the board review their camera surveillance systems, to ensure privacy issues have been considered and that the systems are managed actively in accordance with sound and well documented policies and procedures. Specific recommendations have been made to assist government agencies to ensure that government camera surveillance systems recognise and protect individual privacy through compliance with the requirements of the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act).