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August 26, 2016

CCTV in a public change room


A client asked me:

My son belongs to Durban surf lifesaving club and they have 2 cameras in the boys’ locker room. Is this legal? He does not want to change in front of them and sometimes moves them and then gets into trouble. Please can you just give me a quick view of the law on this?

In South Africa, the right to privacy is protected both in terms of our common law and in section 14 of the Constitution.

Do companies (like Woolworths) have the right to install CCTV cameras in their shopping areas, or does this infringe on people’s rights?

In a recent High Court decision, involving Woolworths, a woman successfully sued Woolworths for damages, when she was stopped and her bag was examined (without justification) in full view of other shoppers, after a security officer at Woolworths saw what he thought was suspicious activity on the CCTV camera.
In the UK, companies need to display a sign indicating that surveillance cameras are in operation.

In SA, it seems that the general sentiment is that people don’t have a real issue relating to using CCTV when the cameras provide additional protection in public spaces against the extremely high levels of crime.

It’s very different when it comes to private places.

In certain locations, such as a public changing room, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy. Whilst the lifesaving club has presumably installed the cameras to prevent theft, it is highly likely that the right of privacy outweighs the right of the club to conduct surveillance in a non-working environment.

In my opinion, the use of CCTV in a change room would constitute a breach of the son’s constitutional right to privacy.

It is one thing to erect a sign, giving notice to shoppers that they are under CCTV surveillance. Being informed is a key aspect to avoiding allegations of invading privacy. It is an entirely different thing to give such notice in a change room. In that environment, users have a legitimate expectation of privacy.


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