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Dublin: 24°C Sunday 25 July 2021

Data Commissioner concerned about CCTV in taxis

The Data Protection Commissioner is worried about the “proportionality and justification” for having cameras in Irish taxis which record pictures AND sound.

A protest by taxi drivers in 2009 in Dublin.
A protest by taxi drivers in 2009 in Dublin.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE DATA PROTECTION Commissioner has said that there are concerns about CCTV cameras being installed in Irish taxis.

In a statement, the Commissioner said it had concerns “about the proportionality and justification for installing CCTV cameras in taxis, taking account of the legitimate privacy expectations of vehicle users”.

The statement was prompted by comments made by John Usher, president of the Irish Taxi Federation, on Newstalk’s The Right Hook show yesterday. Usher was discussing a story carried in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday which reported that Oxford city council plans to fit its 662 taxis with microphones and CCTV cameras.

Usher said that, in fact, CCTV cameras have been a fixture in some taxis in Ireland for some years now. He added:

The modern ones that are being installed presently can record sound and picture.

One taxi company operating in Dublin has such cameras fitted in all their vehicles. The drivers in this company, however, do not have access to the recordings and they are only downloaded at the request of the gardai or in the event of an alleged incident that needed to be investigated.

An estimated 1,000 taxis around the country are fitted with CCTV cameras and legally, the taxi has to carry a sign to indicate the presence of CCTV. (Data Protection Commission guidelines state: The use of recording mechanisms to obtain data without an individual’s knowledge is generally unlawful.”) However, a vox pop of taxi drivers undertaken by Newstalk heard from one man who said he knew of some fellow drivers who had CCTV in their vehicle but didn’t let people know about it.

John Usher argued that the CCTV provides “two-tier” security – it gives the driver protection in cases of false accusations, and it give the passenger some security in knowing that whatever happens in a taxi is recorded. He also suggested that taxi owners should in fact be given a subsidy to install cameras, as a CCTV system can cost “€250 and upwards so not everyone can afford it”.

He also claimed that CCTV video from a taxi was recently used as evidence in a high-profile murder case as it recorded a conversation in a taxi shortly before the murder was carried out.

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