Surveillance devices and the law

March 21, 2014 |

The Age has had quite a good track record in covering privacy issues in a reasoned way, such as  its editorial The primacy of internet privacy on 9 March 2014.  It has not been all good coverage.  The Article People blase about sharing private information is a curates egg , good in parts.  It covers the, then, impending impact of the changes to the Privacy Act which was good as far as it went but then undertakes a very basic and simplistic analysis of people’s attitude to sharing their personal information.  A series of assertions masquerading as argument and commentary.

In Cyclists’ use of helmet cameras requires restraint, Sam di Brito – in house Fairfax columnist – considers the ubiquitous use of helmet cameras.  It is something of a “on the one hand but on the other” type of article regarding the utility of using cameras.  The good use being recording an incident, the bad being using the camera as a means of intimidation and harasssment.

It provides:

In light of the recent rash of video nasties of cyclists getting mashed and harassed by cars, I wonder how long it will be until someone documents a death, perhaps even their own?

Footage now uploaded at stunningly regular intervals of bike riders being clipped, run down, rear-ended and “doored” has to be a wake-up call to motorists as to how deadly and ruinous simple ignorance and inattention can be.

Aggressive or intimidatory driving towards cyclists, however? Surely there’s a case fast being made these sorts of actions should move up the criminal scale, past dangerous driving, and attract the gravity of an attempted vehicular homicide or manslaughter charge?

The successful penetration of the “metre matters” campaign is testament to how confronting these videos have been, hopefully prompting even the most cautious and diffident motorist to reassess their driving strategies near cyclists.

Having previously been cavalier about cyclist safety on social media, I received some very blunt character assessments from enthusiasts and professionals – including Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. I now understand bikers take this stuff very seriously and with good reason.

As much as non-cyclists enjoy moaning about bikers impairing their speed on roads, running red lights and otherwise disobeying traffic rules, it’s ludicrous to deny riding on two wheels can be an extremely dangerous pastime.

The volume of recorded incidents we’re seeing appear – which surely represents only a fraction of the accidents and near misses experienced by riders – suggests the long-voiced complaints and fears of cyclists about motorist behaviour (and awareness) are spot on.

They also show the incompatibility of most busy thoroughfares with bicycle traffic and the pressing need for governments to reassess how cyclists are catered for. Bicycle lanes are a great idea in theory but a white line does little to protect cyclists from the reality of physics, f—wits and the feckless.

Even the most conscientious driver has been guilty of distractedly opening a car door without looking – and it’s only dumb luck there wasn’t a passing cyclist to bounce into the path of incoming traffic. Surely we can do better than gambling people’s lives on a coin toss?

The increasing use of helmet cams and devices like the newly launched Fly6 will hopefully raise driver consciousness and also act as a deterrent to the minority of mugs who are happy to use their vehicle to jeopardise or threaten a cyclist’s safety.

However, incidents like this week’s much-publicised “dooring” of a rider on Collins Street in Melbourne, highlight that the use of technology is going to require restraint and, perhaps, policing.

As appalled as many people rightly were by the attitude of taxi passenger, Jeff Hunter – after his initial refusal to give his name and address to the cyclist, she then crossed a very murky line by pursuing Hunt and his companions and continuing to video them.

It is easy to imagine a scenario where a person makes an honest mistake in traffic and an overzealous cyclist and their camera stumbles into a situation someone does not want recorded.

Millions of people every day visit places they are not meant to be, escorting people they should not, doing things they’d probably not want videoed and then disseminated via the internet.

These are legitimate privacy concerns, one the rider in this incident obviously fully grasped by declining to identify herself in a subsequent media interview about her experience.

Wearable video-recording devices like GoPro cameras and Google Glass are only going to make these situations more common and, if users fail to use them diplomatically, they may well be documenting their way into the wrong side of a courtroom.

The Parkes Champion Post reports in Man, 20, charged over Facebook posting on a local who has been charged with breaching the Surveillance Devices Act in surreptiously recording a conversation and then posting it on Facebook.
It provides:

A 20 year old Parkes man has been charged with breaching the Surveillance Devices Act after allegedly illegally recording a conversation in a local fast food outlet and posting the video on Facebook.

The man allegedly entered the outlet after 2pm last Friday and recorded a conversation he had with a staff member before posting it on the social media site.

The staff member was unaware they were being recorded and as such did not give their permission.

The man has been issued with a Court Attendance Notice to appear in Parkes Local Court on May 5.

A police spokesperson said the charge can carry a maximum five year gaol sentence or a $5,500 fine.

Social media matters are becoming increasingly serious with a man being fined and ordered to pay more than $100,000 for defamation of a school teacher via his twitter account.

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