Moreton Bay Regional Council is believed to be the first in Queensland to introduce CCTV cameras that record audio, and if you think that sounds dodgy, it’s because it probably is.
Queensland has some unusual privacy laws that don’t quite jibe with the rest of Australia – it’s legal to secretly record a conversation that you’re taking part in, for example – but immediate past president of the Queensland Law Society, Bill Potts, thinks that even so, these hearing security cameras are pretty much definitely breaking the law. He told the Courier Mail:
“If we start allowing private conversations to be picked up, then in essence we are doing away with one of the fundamentals of our society, which is that people have a reasonable expectation of not having government authorities or investigators intrude upon their privacy – unless there is good cause.”
Moreton Bay Mayor Allan Sutherland insists that the council isn’t conducting any illegal surveillance, and that the 336 cameras upgraded with audio capabilities (out of 874 CCTV cameras in total) were designed to help police with their investigations, not eavesdrop on the public.
“This functionality may be accessed by law enforcement officers when they request CCTV footage from council of an alleged crime or incident. When an incident happens, council’s public safety officers are contacted by the police and asked to search CCTV records around a specific location where an incident may have occurred and provide that footage to police.“
Legal Aid Queensland says on its website that “it is illegal to record private conversations that you’re not involved in,” which seems to put Moreton Bay Council pretty squarely in the wrong. However, it’s likely that the Council’s argument for the legality of their audio surveillance hinges on the fact that there will be signs informing the public that they’re in range of listening security cams.
Potts doesn’t think that will fly in court, telling the Courier Mail that signs advising that audio is being recorded does not mean that the public give their consent.
Queenslanders, keep an eye on this one – it could set an alarming precedent.
Source: Courier Mail.
Image: Shaun Wang / EyeEm / Getty.