The law provides privacy rights to every individual. These privacy rights seek to protect any personal information including your name, photos of you, medical information, your home address and more. Even your opinion can be personal information if it reveals something about you.

In a modern world there have been rising difficulties around protecting individual’s personal information. In particular, many people have faced issues where their neighbours have erected a video surveillance system which overlooks part of their property.

In such cases, the Privacy Act provides little help, as it generally only applies to agencies and organisations. In rare cases, the Act may apply to individuals. For example, the Act will apply if the collecting of video footage is unlawful, or if it would be “highly offensive”.

If this is the case, a claim can be made to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, who will then investigate the situation. However, these are high thresholds to meet and, usually, the Act will not help.

The Act also does not protect you from possible future breaches, only privacy breaches that have already occurred.

However, this does not mean that you have no options available to you. You may be able to rely on the Summary Offences Act, or you could bring a claim to the courts for invasion of privacy.  In some cases, erecting such surveillance cameras may even be a crime under the Crimes Act.

Section 30 of the Summary Offences Act states that no one is allowed to “peep or peer” into another person’s home. This may apply to you if the surveillance overlooks areas of your property such as your bedroom, bathroom or living room.

You could also bring a claim to the courts for an invasion of privacy. This tort requires the public disclosure, or likely public disclosure of private facts. Private facts will likely include intimate footage of you in your home. However, the tort also requires that this disclosure would be highly offensive or objectionable to the objective reasonable person.

This can be a high threshold to meet. It is an objective assessment, so does not look at how you personally feel about the interference with your privacy.

The Crimes Act also makes it illegal for someone to record your intimate personal moments, and to publish them without your knowledge or consent. This may apply if the surveillance looks into a bedroom or bathroom, or even a backyard surrounded by high fences. The test is whether you would reasonably expect to have privacy in that area and whether the footage contains intimate material such as nudity.

It is important to be aware of your privacy rights and obligations. If you are confused about either of these, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

 Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors