Taxis and private-hire cars can now have inward-facing cameras to deter fare cheats, unruly passengers
Data privacy commission issues new guidelines on in-vehicle cameras
In a move to curb fare evaders and abusive passengers, cabbies and private-hire car drivers can now use inward-facing video cameras in their vehicles.
The new rules took effect yesterday, with the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) issuing new advisory guidelines on in-vehicle recordings by transport service providers.
The privacy watchdog said passengers who do not wish to be recorded can opt not to use the transport service.
The PDPC, which worked closely with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on the guidelines, assured the public that drivers would need to seek LTA's approval before installing the cameras.
Transport service companies and drivers must also abide by the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which has been in force since 2014.
The firms must put in place adequate security measures to protect the personal data of consumers, or risk fines of up to $1 million under the PDPA.
Prominent notices on the use of inward-facing video cameras must also be displayed.
Drivers are forbidden to upload the videos on social media, but the footage can be used in official investigations.
Passengers can request to view or be given the videos, with the transport firm bearing the cost unless it deems it too expensive to retrieve the footage.
The National Taxi Association (NTA) had been lobbying since 2015 for the use of such video cameras to combat fare evaders and unruly passengers.
There were 240 cases of fare evasion in 2015, up from 68 in 2012, the Public Transport Council had said previously.
The fine for first-time fare evaders was raised to $200 last year from $100 previously, and $400 for the second offence, up from $200.
"The cameras will provide a greater sense of security, especially for female drivers, and help resolve disputes,"said labour MP Ang Hin Kee, who is executive adviser to the NTA and National Private Hire Vehicles Association.
In 2013, ComfortDelGro, which has the largest fleet of taxis here, installed inward-facing cameras in its vehicles, but later removed them.
Its spokesman, Ms Tammy Tan, told The Straits Times: "We are currently reviewing the new guidelines and will work with our drivers to best look after their interests."
Welcoming the new guidelines, GrabCar Singapore head Andrew Chan said: "(They) could also pave the way for new policy development to better protect the welfare of all our driver-partners and passengers, such as reducing instances of fare evasions."
Drivers contacted by The New Paper supported the PDPC decision.
ComfortDelGro cabby Alex Ng, 40, said the cameras would better protect drivers if something untoward happens.
Another ComfortDelGro driver, Mr Paul Chua, 50, said: "If passengers know they are being recorded, they will behave themselves."
Perhaps surprisingly, Ms Cynn Lim, 29, did not see a need for such cameras in her vehicle.
The Uber driver said: "I believe people won't try to rob someone who is young and can chase after them."
A fare evader once cheated Ms Lim of $80, but she said: "It's only a monetary loss. It wasn't life-threatening."
Passengers were divided over the cameras.
Mr Hiew Wen Li, 20, who is waiting to enter university, said: "I'm not going to do anything weird, so I don't consider it an invasion of privacy."
Reflecting a common concern among passengers, Ms Teo Jie Ling, 22, feared the recordings could infringe on her privacy.
The National University of Singapore accountancy student said: "What is recorded belongs to the driver and company. They are free to manipulate the data and we wouldn't know about it.
"The public should have been consulted before the policy was implemented."
Communications consultant Emelyne Ng, 25, had mixed feelings.
"Our personal data might be leaked, but if the cameras deter drivers from committing lewd acts, they would protect my personal safety," she said.