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Listening CCTV

CCTVs with microphones


Update: A Fare Cop...

Southampton Council found to be abusing Taxi passengers' right to privacy

Link Here21st February 2013
Full story: Listening CCTV...CCTVs with microphones

Southampton Council's attempt to justify it's policy of requiring taxis to record audio and video of every journey took another blow when the First Tier Tribunal ruled against it.

The case stems from a complaint made by Big Brother Watch and others to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and led to Oxford council abandoning it's policy and Southampton being given an enforcement notice -- essentially a prosecution for breaching the Data Protection Act.

As reported by the barrister's chambers 11KBW, who acted for the ICO in the case:

What the Council disputed was (1) the conclusion that the policy involved the processing of sensitive personal data as well as personal data; and (2) the ICO's finding that the recording and retention of audio data was a disproportionate interference with passengers' privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention.

On both points, the tribunal ruled against the council, saying the policy was disproportionate and accepting the risk of function creep .


3rd April

Big Brother's Not Listening in Oxford Cabs...Yet...

Oxford Council put their disgraceful taxi snooping scheme on hold whilst awaiting a report from the Information Commissioner

A disgraceful scheme to put CCTV with microphones into all of Oxford's taxis has been put on hold over privacy fears. Oxford City Council has put it on hold while the Information Commissioner's Office investigates if recording people's conversations is a breach of privacy.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood has also told the council she is unhappy with the scheme. She has also written to the Information Commissioner's Office seeking an update on that investigation. Blackwood said:

It does seem the city council has crossed the line.

It is an invasion of privacy and undermining of civil liberties that neither passengers nor taxi drivers themselves have welcomed.

The ICO stated to me that recording conversations between passengers is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified.

CCTV plays an important role in combating crime but that has to be balanced with privacy concerns and used within common sense limits.


14th December

Update: Taxi Snooping...

Southampton Council found to be human rights abusers over mandatory CCTV with microphones in taxis

A ruling by Southampton Crown Court has sent a clear message to local authorities across the country, a policy of mandatory audio recording in taxis is unlawful, being both disproportionate and a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case, Southampton City Council v Kevin May, is the first challenge against mandatory audio recording and comes weeks after Oxford council said it planned to introduce the policy. The judgement said:

It was not reasonably necessary to install audio cameras on a permanent basis in all taxis in Southampton to pursue the council aims of preventing crime and disorder and improving safety.

The case evaluated the arguments put forward in favour of a system and comprehensively found Southampton Council was acting in breach of the law to enforce the policy.

At paragraph 71 of the ruling, the court reaffirms this point, saying:

The condition does not correspond to a pressing social need, is not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and is not necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

However, the court ruled that it did not have the power to overturn the policy, and that it would require a judicial review to force the council to abandon it.

Big Brother Watch is calling for Southampton, Oxford and any other local authority considering this issue to abandon a policy which has now been established as disproportionate and a violation of Article 8? by a Court: We have written to Oxford City Council calling for them to abandon their policy without delay on the basis of this decision.


19th November

Big Brother's Listening in Oxford Cabs...

Oxford mandates CCTV with audio for cabs and buses

Be careful what you say if you decide to take a taxi or the bus in Oxford -- every word will be recorded.

Despite being in clear breach of the guidance issued by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and a gross invasion of privacy, Oxford Council has decided to make it a condition for all licensed black cabs in the city to record both audio and video.

The audio will be available to council officers and the police, and will cover any time the taxi's engine is running and the 30 minutes after the engine has been switched off.

The Oxford Times has the story, which also uncovered that audio recording is curently in use on Oxford Bus Company buses and Stagecoach's Oxford Tube bus.

The Information Commissioner's Office has a code of practice for the use of CCTV and it's clear on the issue of audio recording.

CCTV must not be used to record conversations between members of the public as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified. You should choose a system without this facility if possible. If your system comes equipped with a sound recording facility then you should turn this off or disable it in some other way.

However, the Council has taken a rather different approach. Oxford City Council's Taxi Licensing Pack states that:

the equipment must be:

4. Capable of providing voice recording
5. The recording must be event activated (e.g. door or ignition) and continue to record 30 minutes after the ignition is switched off.

It remains to be seen if the Council even has the legal authority to do this.

Update: Cabbies now speaking out

21st March 2012. See  article from

When the policy was first proposed, it was (according to the council) supported by taxi drivers, and the policy was backed publicly by Alan Woodward, secretary of The City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association. However, since our intervention -- which saw the policy receive international media coverage as far afield as Fox News and Russia Today -- Woodward has been forced to resign, and now the city's taxi drivers are speaking out.


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