Always-on audio recording means recording every minute of every conversation of every passenger, which is a disproportionate and intrusive policy that goes against data protection law and does little to address to the underlying threats to driver safety.
Councils in Oxford, Doncaster and Southampton had plans to force local taxi drivers to record the conversations of their passengers.
This is while that Taxi drivers should not be forced to install surveillance equipment in their cabs.
Voluntary schemes and panic button systems would offer a solution to those drivers who feel their safety is at risk without forcing every cab to record passengers.
“By requiring taxi operators to record all conversations and images while the vehicles are in use, the City Councils have gone too far”, said Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.
“We recognise the Councils’ desire to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers but this has to be balanced against the degree of privacy that most people would reasonably expect in the back of a taxi cab. It is only right that the privacy of drivers and passengers is respected. This is particularly important as many drivers will use their vehicles outside work. While CCTV can be used in taxis, local authorities must be sensible about the extent to which they mandate its use, particularly when audio recording is involved”, he added.
The Information Commissioner Office (ICO) has published a CCTV Code of Practice to help local authorities and other organisations using CCTV to stay within the law.
However, it seems an increasing number of local authorities are happy to disregard this as they pursue over-zealous surveillance policies.