CCTV systems should always be placed out of respect for a neighbouring property – problems can arise when you cross the line of monitoring your own property and someone else’s, says Roy Bregman, a property law expert at Bregman Moodley Attorneys.
With regard to privacy and the law, Bregman said that 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 may follow.
“CCTV monitoring is acceptable and even welcomed in public places, but it is unreasonable to be spied-on on your own private property.”
There is nothing illegal, per se, about home surveillance in South Africa, added the lawyer.
Strict regulation of complaints about the invasion of privacy through CCTVs is not provided explicitly in South African law; however, the Constitution gives citizens the broad right to privacy.
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.
As a result of specific legislation being absent, the South African 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.
Bregman said that the best method to avoid complaints is to use common sense when deciding where to place and what to point the camera toward on your property.
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; and
- If your system captures information about an incident, retain that information as the police could use it to aid an investigation.