The next time you board a taxi or Grab, do not be alarmed if you see a video camera filming you.
It is quite common to see drivers using outward-facing video cameras to record incidents in front of their vehicles. On April 9 however, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) issued new guidelines which permit taxi and private-hire drivers on using passenger-facing video cameras in their vehicles.
While taxi/private-hire drivers may cheer about being able to use such cameras to deter passengers from unruly behaviour or fare evasion, one must not forget the other stakeholder affected by this, which is you, the passenger.
How are You Affected?
Presently, all organisations in Singapore, including taxi and Grab drivers, must abide by the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) when collecting, using and/or disclosing personal data about individuals.
“Personal data” refers to data (whether true or not) about an individual who can be identified from the data (whether alone or in combination with other information).
The footage taken of you contains recordings of your image and voice, and you can be identified from such data. The footage therefore contains personal data about you which is protected under the PDPA.
Accordingly, any privacy concerns stemming from these new guidelines which you have will fall under the scope of the PDPA. Let us clear some of the pressing privacy concerns or questions you may have.
How can I Know if a Passenger-Facing Camera has been Installed in the Vehicle?
You are required to be notified if passenger-facing cameras have been installed in the vehicle. You also have to be informed of the purposes for the collection, use and/or disclosure of your personal data in the footage.
There are various ways in which drivers can inform you of these as the guidelines do not prescribe how passengers should be informed. For example, the driver can:
- Place a clear, visible notice on the passenger door informing you that a functioning passenger-facing camera is in use just before you board the vehicle. The notice should also specify the purposes of collection, use and/or disclosure of your personal data in the footage.
- There may also be such notices within the vehicle (e.g. headrest or windscreen)
- Play a recorded message at the start of the trip to inform you that a passenger-facing camera is in use
- Get you to sign a form to indicate your consent to the collection, use and/or disclosure of your personal data in the footage
- Email you to notify you if you are booking a ride in advance, and require a reply to the email which will serve as evidence of your consent
Do Drivers Need Permission to Install Passenger-Facing Cameras?
Drivers (or their companies) need to seek approval from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) before installing passenger-facing cameras in their vehicles. Drivers who do so without LTA approval can be fined up $1,000 and/or jailed up to 3 months.
Therefore if the taxi or Grab vehicle you board has a passenger-facing camera installed, ask the driver if LTA approval has been obtained for the installation of the camera.
The LTA is also currently working on its own guidelines to further regulate the installation of such cameras.
What will the Footage be Used for?
The footage will be used to assist in official investigations such as cases of fare evasion or abuse. It can also be used as evidence in a lawsuit if required.
Can I Ask the Driver to Not Record Me?
Some drivers (or their companies) may insist on the use of passenger-facing cameras in their vehicles so as to ensure the safety and security of both you and the driver.
This is allowed, but the driver (or the driver’s company, through the driver) will have to notify you that a passenger-facing camera has been installed in the vehicle (through the ways mentioned above), and then seek your consent to being filmed before he can proceed to drive you to your destination.
If you do not consent, you will then have to find alternative transport that does not make the use of passenger-facing cameras.
How Long will the Footage be Kept for?
The guidelines do not provide any timeframe. However under the PDPA, drivers or their companies (depending on who owns the footage) must “cease to retain” the footage when there is no longer a business or legal purpose for retaining it.
What if I Want to See/Get a Copy of the Footage that has been Taken of Me?
If you want to see or get the copy of the footage, you should first identify who owns the footage. You can enquire with the driver and if he does not know (or he is not the owner of the footage), you can then ask his company.
The owner of the footage is required to provide you with access to the footage of you, upon request. This is unless the footage no longer exists when you request for it or there is some exception under the PDPA that applies.
An example of such an exception would be where the burden or expense on the owner of the footage of finding the relevant part of it would be unreasonable or disproportionate to your interests.
“For video recordings, it’s thought that a request would be unreasonable if the person requesting the footage cannot pinpoint the timeframe which he or she needs footage of very well,” shares lawyer Lyn Boxall.
“For example, a request for footage taken ‘some time last Monday afternoon’ may be considered unreasonable as opposed to a request for footage taken ‘between 3pm to 3.15pm last Monday’.”
You may be charged a reasonable fee for being provided with a copy of the footage so that the owner of the footage can recoup their costs of providing it to you. If providing you with a copy is too costly, the owner of the footage may arrange for a time for you to view the footage in person. If you think the fee is too high, you can get the fee amount reviewed by the PDPC before you pay it.
You can also be denied access to the footage if your request for it is trivial or otherwise frivolous or vexatious. But if so, the owner should be able to provide evidence to support their decision.
What if I Want the Driver to Delete the Footage Taken?
Your driver (or the driver’s company, depending on who owns the footage) need not delete the footage but may continue to retain it if there are any legal or business purposes for doing so.
The owner of the footage must only stop using or disclosing your personal data in the footage, unless otherwise required or allowed to under written law (such as for police investigations).
What if the Driver Refuses to Comply with My Request(s) to Obtain a Copy of the Footage/to have the Footage Deleted?
You are encouraged to first approach the driver (or driver’s company) to clarify the reasons for the driver’s actions and seek an amicable resolution of the matter.
If an amicable resolution is not possible, you may proceed to lodge a complaint with the PDPC.
If the driver (or the driver’s company) is found to have contravened his obligations under the Personal Data Protection Act, the PDPC may subject him to enforcement action. This includes requiring the driver (or the driver’s company) to:
- Stop collecting, using and/or disclosing the footage
- Destroy the footage
- Allow you access to the footage
The driver (or officers of the driver’s company) can also be fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to 3 years.
Rest assured, the collection, use and/or disclosure of personal data by taxi and Grab drivers (and their companies) is subject to the protection of the PDPA. These parties can therefore be taken to task if they fail to comply with the PDPA’s data protection requirements.
Do stay tuned for further updates as LTA works on its own guidelines to further bolster the PDPC’s guidelines. Till then, be aware of your rights the next time you board a taxi or Grab vehicle that has installed a passenger-facing camera, and don’t be afraid to exercise your rights as necessary.