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
March 2012. See article from bigbrotherwatch.org.uk
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.