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Forward-Facing Cameras in Commercial Passenger Vehicles

Under current regulations, commercial passenger vehicle licence holders and operators of commercial passenger vehicles no longer require approval from the Taxi Services Commission to install equipment such as 'forward-facing cameras' in their vehicles.

However, before installing a forward-facing camera, operators and licence holders should be aware of their responsibilities under relevant Victorian and Commonwealth privacy legislation and consider the following:

What information can be captured by a forward facing camera?

A forward-facing camera is captured under the definitions of the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) as an optical surveillance device and a listening device (if it is capable of recording audio footage).

The Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) prohibits the use of an optical surveillance device to record private activity and the use of a listening device to record a private conversation. Audio recording inside taxis is also prohibited under section 158B (4) of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 (Vic). Therefore, it is important to ensure that a forward-facing camera installed in a commercial passenger vehicle does not record any visual or audio footage within the vehicle and in particular, passengers within the vehicle.

If the primary purpose of installing  a forward facing  camera in a commercial passenger vehicle is to obtain unbiased records of incidents, such as a traffic accidents for example, these types of events are considered to occur within the public domain as they generally occur on public roadways and are events that are expected to be seen in public.

What are your privacy obligations when using a 'forward facing camera'?

In addition to being subject to the provisions of the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) and Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 (Vic), drivers, operators and booking service providers (BSPs) are also subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) ( Federal Privacy Act) and National Privacy Principles if they are an 'organisation' for the purposes of the Federal Privacy Act or  are a 'small business operator'.

Drivers, operators and BSPs are a small business operator if their annual turnover is $3 million or less for the previous financial year. Small business operators are not subject to the Federal Privacy Act nor the National Privacy Principles.

If drivers, operators and BSPs have an annual turnover of greater than $3 million for the previous financial year, then they are an 'organisation' for the purposes of the Federal Privacy Act and are subject to the National Privacy Principles. In particular, they are subject to National Privacy Principle 2 which deals with the use and disclosure of personal information about an individual in the organisation's possession.

For further information in relation to the Federal Privacy Act and National Privacy Principles, visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website or phone 1300 363 992.

What is the proper use and installation of 'forward facing cameras'?

As with a GPS or any other dashboard/windshield mounted device, a forward facing camera should be secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while the vehicle is in use and must not obscure your view of the road ahead, behind and to either side of the vehicle. This is in line with the provisions contained in the Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic).

The content of this webpage is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you need legal advice on a specific matter, please contact a legal practitioner.