Say goodbye to privacy in taxis and private-hire cars

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The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced a new list of rules on Tuesday, May 22. These rules have been released following last month’s advisory guidelines from the  Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) concerning regarding in-vehicle recording by transport service providers. The PCDC is the watchdog for privacy for the whole country.

The most significant development is that private-hire cars and taxis are now allowed to install video cameras facing inwards starting from June 22. The installation of these cameras is now allowed in order to address the problems of drivers’ abuse and fare evasion.

However, these cameras will only be recording video footage inside the vehicles. In other words, there will be no audio recording, and so private conversations of passengers will not be unrecorded.

Taxi companies and ride-hailing apps are required to give notice to customers who book with them that the vehicle they’ve hired has recording equipment installed. And in the vehicle itself, there mist be signs that indicate the presence of these cameras.

The National Taxi Association has been advocating for the installation of such cameras for the past three years. Using them is not necessarily illegal, but whether or not they breach privacy has been a concern.

Singapore’s biggest taxi company, ComfortDelGro, actually had cameras that face inwards put in their cabs in 2013, but these were later taken away. Premier, SMRT, Trans-Cab and Prime, other taxi services, have never installed this video equipment into their cabs.

The new guidelines from the LTA concerning video recording equipment are clearer for owners of private-hire car fleets and cab companies. First, approval from the  LTA is now compulsory, and the video equipment must also be fitted into cars solely at establishments authorized by the LTA. According to them, “This is to ensure that the inward-facing in-vehicle recording devices (IVRDs) are installed according to the manufacturer’s requirements and LTA’s requirements, and to prevent the inward-facing IVRDs from being tampered with.”

Installation centers have to make certain that the video equipment is secured in the cab, and that the recordings within them are not accessible without authorization. Furthermore, recorded videos are only kept for one week at most.

The cameras are also installed in such a way that they are fixed into the vehicles, and cannot be made to swivel. This ensures that passengers will not be caught on video in compromising positions. 

The owners of the cab companies and private-hire car fleets need to check on their vehicles’ camera equipment regularly, to ensure that the videos stay private.

Should the LTA’s regulations be disregarded, fines of up to $1000 or up to three months imprisonment, or possibly both, may be meted out,.

Drivers who wish for inward-facing cameras to be installed in their vehicles must also first get the LTA’s permission.