Security cameras are regulated in WA by operation of the Surveillance Devices Act 1998 (the Act). It is an offence pursuant to section 6 of that Act to install, use, or maintain a security camera ‘to record visually or observe a private activity to which that person is not a party’.
The penalty is up to a $5,000 fine, 12 months imprisonment, or both. Complaints can be made to the Police although writing to the person (or organisation) responsible for the camera raising your concerns would be sensible in the first instance. However, there are exceptions which may apply and permit a camera to remain in place.
One such exception is that the camera owner may argue that the camera is ‘reasonably necessary for the protection of their lawful interests’. The test in this regard will often be the combination of the camera location and the range/area which it covers. In other words, a camera would ordinarily need to be wholly or largely confined to capturing footage within the confines of the camera owner’s property. In other words, does the camera face outwards from the property into a neighbouring property, or is it located on a boundary facing back into their property? Often there may be some cost associated with relocating a camera and running power and communications cables (if it is not wireless) to a boundary away from a house or shed etc but that is often what will be required to avoid a breach of the Act.
Another exception is available under section 27 of the Act provides that the camera may remain in-situ if the person who owns it can show that (a) the other party has consented expressly or impliedly; and (b) that the security camera is in the ‘public interest’. To illustrate this exception, if the camera covers a public space such as a verge, road or park area then it may be regarded as being in the public interest. To this end, the public interest test would likely be relevant where a camera may, for example, help reduce anti-social behaviour in a public space because other persons (presumably) do not want to be ‘caught on camera’ doing something that may amount to a criminal act.
Ultimately, many disputes about cameras relate back to positioning and range and in most cases, the camera/s in question can be relocated to protect the privacy of others (ordinarily neighbours) whilst at the same time achieving the same purpose for which they were intended.
Finally, if you have read this far and think that you need some practical advice or assistance in relation to your situation, then now is probably the time to get in touch.