CCTV cameras at home and the right to privacy

A client asked: What is the law on CCTV installation on a private property in relation to privacy and the law? I have a situation where a camera has been set such that 85% of what is being captured is in my yard.

Privacy issues

You have the right to protect your property and this can be done by using a CCTV system where it is necessary, such as a security measure. However, out of respect for your neighbour, CCTV systems should be used in a responsible way to respect the privacy of others.

The problem arises when you cross the line between monitoring your own property and somebody else’s. If your camera is angled in such a way that it includes coverage of your neighbour’s yard or driveway, then complaints about invasion of privacy will follow.

CCTV monitoring is acceptable and even welcomed in public places, but it is unreasonable to be spied on in your own private property. 

The law

The complaints about invasion of privacy are not specifically protected in law. Our constitution gives a citizen the broad right to privacy. However, there is nothing illegal, per se, about home surveillance in South Africa.

South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act which seeks to regulate the Processing of Personal Information, does not apply to purely household or personal activity.

Clearly, the common law would protect you, regarding your neighbour’s CCTV cameras, when:

  • The surveillance is of a criminal or voyeuristic nature;
  • The area being monitored is one where someone would reasonably expect to have privacy, such as a bedroom or bathroom;
  • The surveillance is of such intensity that it is creating a nuisance, preventing someone from the enjoyment of their property;
  • The installation of the cameras is the result of a neighbourhood dispute involving threatening behaviour, in which case an apprehended violence order may call for the cameras to be removed.

The solution

Use some basic common sense to avoid alienating your neighbours and possibly being taken to court.

When you install CCTV cameras, make sure that:

  • You are transparent to those around you when installing your CCTV system, by informing your neighbour(s) about your system;
  • They are only monitoring your property;
  • If your camera is pointing directly at a neighbour’s property, you should take steps to reposition it to avoid complaints or in some cases accusations of violation of privacy or harassment;
  • If they are overlooking the street, there is a sign informing people they are being monitored;
  • They are not monitoring areas where people could reasonably expect privacy;
  • The stored information is not used for any other purpose than protecting your property;
  • If you record images, regularly delete the recordings and do not keep them for longer than is necessary for the protection of your property;
  • If your system captures information of an incident, retain that information as it could be use by the police to aid an investigation.

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2 Responses

  1. I have a camera facing directly onto my property. It’s above a 6 ft wall,between 2 palasades.
    I want it removed. How do I go about it?

  2. Hi Ilse, if your neighbour won’t redirect the camera, this may constitute harassment and you could either approach your local magistrate’s court for a protection order or we could write a threatening email to the neighbour.

    Regards, Roy Bregman
    Bregman Moodley Attorneys

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