WHY THE NZ PRIVACY ACT PROBABLY DOESN'T APPLY TO YOUR HOME CCTV

This article explains why New Zealand's privacy law probably doesn't even cover what you do with cameras on your Auckland home. 

Whenever I speak in front of an audience about security cameras, the first question is always the same. "What about privacy?" ... Or something along those lines. 

Some people are afraid of upsetting their neighbours by putting up cameras. Others have neighbours with cameras ... and they already hate them so they want to know what their rights are. There's a short story about each of these cases below. 

I'm not a lawyer, but it's my job to be across this particular law, so I've researched the Act and spoken directly with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.   The picture is actually surprisingly clear. 

First the stories. 

K put up security cameras on his new Auckland home and then he did the right thing and discussed it with his neighbour who he realised could see one of them from his property. It turned out that one tiny corner of the image showed a small part of the neighbours pool area. The neighbour was a bit upset so K used the digital masking feature to pixelate that part of the image. K also gave the neighbour 24/7 access to the camera so they could satisfy themselves at any time, that the camera couldn't see their pool area any more. 

Question:  Did J actually need to do any of this?

Answer: No. 

Interestingly the neighbour still wasn't 100% happy so K decided in the interests of good relations, to move the camera at his cost of course. 

Story 2. 

S has a friend who has the new neighbours from hell. Big shot developer with teenage kids. Installed a skate ramp which operates all hours. Extra lighting. Lots of parties. Lots of noise. Lots of security cameras. 

S says her friend has approached the neighbour on several occasions ... so they no longer get on. The police aren't interested and the Council respond to noise complaints but of course it's all quiet when the inspector gets there. 

S wonders whether her friend can get the cameras taken down because she feels they look directly at large parts of her property. 

Question:  Can the noisy neighbour be made to remove or move the cameras under privacy law?

Answer: No. 

The Law

Section 56 of the Privacy Act basically says that if you're not being an idiot, then your home security cameras aren't even covered. 

You can read it for yourself and of course the wording is different to mine. The message is clear though. You are perfectly entitled to protect your loved ones and your property even if that means your cameras show parts of neighbouring properties ... as long as you don't use the in a "highly offensive" way. 

If you want to be an idiot and point one of your cameras straight into a neighbours child's bedroom window then I'd imagine you're in trouble. 

But ... as long as you use them for your own "personal, family or household affairs" ... then you're fine and privacy law has nothing to say. 

My Advice

Don't worry about privacy issues around your home CCTV. 

If you want reassurance phone the Office of the NZ Privacy Commissioner. I found them very helpful and very clear. 

Read the Privacy Act and especially Section 56. Section 7 reminds you that if you break other laws with your cameras ( eg voyeurism ) then the Privacy Act is overridden ( in this case by the Crimes Act ). 

If you're still not satisfied seek legal advice. It amused me that K did this and the first line of his lawyers response email was "You need to be careful."  I wonder how many lawyers letters in human history have begun with " You need to be careless."