Dashcams: Some things to note
With footage from in-car cameras being posted online to highlight or shame alleged traffic offenders, what are the video poster's legal obligations and liabilities?
Cameras are everywhere and they are capturing more of people's lives. These include personal cameras worn by police officers, closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) and dashboard cameras (dashcams)and they have been used for everything from deterring illegal loan sharks to exposing road terrors.
Of these cameras, the ones that seem to get much of the attention are the dashcams.
Some of the footage ends up on Stomp, Facebook pages like Beh Chia Lor - Singapore Road and YouTube channels like Singapore Reckless Drivers community (SRD Community), which has more than 10,000 subscribers.
These videos can bolster the case against the errant motorists.
Certainly, it appears that more people are reporting road terrors to the police.
There was more than a 30 per cent jump in such reports between 2014 and last year.
So it is timely to note some important points on the use of dashcam footage.
1. POSTING FOOTAGE ONLINE IS NOT ENOUGH, THE POLICE SAY YOU ARE 'STRONGLY ENCOURAGED' TO MAKE A POLICE REPORT
A police spokesman said: "For traffic violations posted on social media platforms, Traffic Police (TP) will look into the matter and take follow-up actions if the violations come to TP's attention.
"Witnesses of such violations are strongly encouraged to come forward to lodge a police report, to assist the TP with investigations."
2. YOU'D BETTER NOT LIE
Lawyer Louis Joseph said the witness has to be truthful.
"If any lies or half-truths are told, they risk being charged (with) giving false information to a public officer," he said.
3. DASHCAM FOOTAGE AND A POLICE REPORT MAY STILL NOT BE ENOUGH
Said the police spokesman: "Additionally, the person reporting the violation has to undertake that he or she must be willing to appear in court as well."
4. BACK UP THE FOOTAGE WITH OTHER SOURCES
The witness' case can be bolstered by objective evidence like photos or videos with time and dates, and contact details of other witnesses, said lawyer Sunil Sudheesan.
"They will form part of the body of evidence against the accused," he said.
5. THE EVIDENCE ACT
Lawyer Gloria James said: "The use of footage from CCTV and dashboard camera video is governed by the Evidence Act.
"In the event that CCTV evidence proves to be inconclusive, dashcam evidence may provide help to the police in identifying any wrongdoer."
She said that as long as there is no tampering of the device, dashcam footage can be used as evidence.
6. PRIVACY LAWS
Several countries in Europe ban dashcams because data is collected secretly.
Motorists in Austria risk a fine of 10,000 euros (S$15,300) for first-time offenders.
In Germany, the videos recorded on dashcams cannot be used in a criminal and civil case.
That's because an individual is protected under the Constitution from having his personal data collected, stored, used and disclosed.
Singapore has privacy laws, too. In 2012, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) was passed.
On its website, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said the law recognises both the rights of individuals to protect their personal data, including rights of access and correction.
But it also recognises the needs of organisations to collect, use or disclose personal data for legitimate and reasonable purposes.
And personal data can be used without consent if its use is necessary for any investigation or proceedings.
The problem is that so much of PDPA is framed around the Do Not Call registry.
Is it legal for an individual or organisation like SRD Community to collect, store and use personal data collected on dashcams?
The Act doesn't make it clear.
But those who feel dashcam videos have invaded their privacy can lodge a complaint with the PDPC.
Lawyers said they may have legitimate claims.
On SRD Community, there are videos of bad drivers from 2014.
A motorist shouldn't be shamed long after he has paid his dues.
You can lodge a police report for traffic violations at the nearest Neighbourhood Police Centre or Post.
You can also report the traffic violations or provide images or videos related to traffic violations to the Police online via the "Feedback on road users" portal at www.police.gov.sg/epc/index.html
The Traffic Police will look into the matter after a report is lodged.
About 3,500 violation reports were submitted via the e-feedback platform in 2014, and about 4,700 last year.