Cameras in bathrooms not an invasion of privacy, says owner

Dancers mosh - Party-goers, revellers, at The Thirsty Whale, West Quay, Napier, on New Year's Eve. 31 December 2015 Hawke's Bay Today Photograph by Duncan Brown.

The owner of the Thirsty Whale pub in Napier is denying any breach of privacy in having security cameras installed in its bathrooms. A customer has made a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner after spotting the cameras in the men’s bathroom, before his partner found similar cameras in the women’s bathroom.

“There's no signage, outside the bathroom, regarding the cameras,” the complainant said. “My wife was disgusted. We all felt really disgusted. That's not normal.”

Owner Chris Sullivan said that he was aware of its legal obligations under the Privacy Act, and installed the cameras in such a way as to not breach privacy.

“We have CCTV cameras installed in our premises in a variety of locations, at entry and exit points, in the bar area, over the tills, on the dance floor etc. However, we do not now and have never had cameras installed in the toilets filming any area where staff or patrons' privacy could be breached.”

Sullivan said that repeated damage to the hand dryer in the men’s toilet led him to install a camera to catch offenders, but the camera was removed not long after.

“We have identified that we require CCTV surveillance for a number of reasons, these reasons include, recording or detecting any events or issues that impact on the health and safety of our staff or patrons, capturing evidence of crime (including theft, assaults and damage to property). There are cameras in the foyer area leading to the toilets and over the doors to the toilet area (at the initial entry point and quite a distance away from the actual toilets themselves).”

A spokesperson for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said that information, including CCTV images, can not be collected in a manner that is unreasonably intrusive.

“Depending on how they are placed, and what images they are capturing, CCTV cameras installed in toilets might well fall into this category,” the spokesperson said. “If we received a complaint, we would need to consider the following: Did the cameras capture footage inside stalls or at the urinal? Was there adequate signage advising patrons of the presence of cameras? Did it only capture footage of people coming in and out or at the hand washing sinks? We are generally of the view if there are genuine safety and security reasons and the camera use is proportionate to those needs, they will not be in breach of the Act.”