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Are security cameras an invasion of privacy?

28 March 2022

Looking to install a CCTV camera in your home or office? CCTV has long been widely adopted because of its usefulness. Once installed, it provides video surveillance and recording that can be archived if needed. These recordings can be reviewed and will serve as important and reliable evidence of an event that occurred at a specific time in a specific location.

Homeowners prefer to install these devices in their homes so that they can monitor the situation when they are not at home. For example, home-based CCTV systems are used to detect unauthorised home invasions such as burglary. Sometimes, a dummy CCTV unit is placed strategically instead of a real system to prevent intruders from entering homes. Knowing that the home and their loved ones are protected, homeowners can leave their homes with a peace of mind.

CCTV systems also play an important role in the identification of wanted criminals and justifying subsequent arrests. Examples of such incidents include murder, robbery, loan shark activity, graffiti, and more. Other uses for CCTV also include the deterrence of unhygienic activities such as urinating or smoking in lifts. Video surveillance can also be installed at strategic points of the road to monitor the flow of traffic. Not too long ago, taxi drivers started the implementation of CCTV cameras in taxis which allowed them to record accidents and determine the cause. They are also allowed to have inward-facing video camera with audio recording enabled. This is to make it more effective for authorities during investigations of criminal and inappropriate behaviours. Overall, this can help greatly in protecting commuters and passengers during the journey in taxis. Implementation of CCTV cameras at ATMs are a common sight that aids in the prevention of thieves and fraudsters. As such systems become more affordable and widely available, retail shops also implement such systems to prevent theft, robbery, and other criminal activities. Video recordings also serve as important evidence in the event of a criminal case which helps in the enforcement of legal claims.

The controversial usage of CCTV

Despite its usefulness, the use of CCTV surveillance is still controversial. Some view the use of CCTV systems as an invasion of privacy. For example, the installation of CCTVs in someone else’s bedroom or bathroom without permission is an illegal act. To comply with the law, video surveillance systems should not cover a neighbour’s property as this could be an act of voyeurism or harassment.

In some corporate settings, employers install CCTV to monitor their employees such as leisure internet surfing and chatting. This is to ensure employees are working efficiently for the organization without lazing around. However, the result may cause employees to be offended as this is considered an intrusion of one’s personal space and privacy. CCTV footage should only be used for reasons such as abuse in the workspace.

If CCTV is exclusively used to obtain personal information through monitoring, it is an act of abuse. Users should be responsible and comply with the law to prevent improper usage of CCTV.

CCTV Regulation in Singapore

What are some CCTV rules in Singapore? Many people in Singapore are now installing cameras outside their homes or businesses to deter theft. It’s a good idea because it deters people from committing a crime knowing their actions are being monitored. Unfortunately, few people understand Singapore’s CCTV laws.

What you need to know before installing CCTV in Singapore

Before installing CCTV to protect your home, office or property, it is important to understand the law governing the usage of CCTVs. While there may be good intentions when installing CCTV, if prior permission wasn’t given by relevant stakeholders, this is considered a breach of the law. This is to avoid abusing video surveillance and invasion of privacy. The law also requires that you apply for a permit before installing a surveillance camera to draw attention to public property.

This prevents criminals from installing cameras in public places for malicious purposes.

According to the PDPA, companies must let people know when their personal data is being collected. The organisations will need to notify individuals to obtain consent when using CCTV footage except for the purpose of managing the employment relationship between employees and the company. The notices should be placed when individuals can visibly see and know that CCTVs have been deployed.

Areas that do not require a permit to install CCTV

You do not need a license to install CCTV on your property. You can install a CCTV camera in your home HDB, but you cannot install it in the hallway without a permit or license.

If you plan to use the camera on someone else’s property or in a public place, you may be breaking the law without permission from the authorities. The same goes for your business or store.

Surveillance cameras can only be installed indoors without a license if the camera faces an office, shop or store. If you install a camera in your company to monitor your employees, you do not need a permit, but you should warn them with a visible sticker. If you install CCTV cameras in your business environment and fail to notify your employees or customers, you are breaking the law.

Areas that require permission to install CCTV

If you want to monitor surroundings outside of your home or office, you must apply for permission before installing video surveillance. Installing CCTV cameras for unauthorised surveillance outside of the office or home is against the rules.

In order to get permission to install CCTV in any of these areas, you must demonstrate that you have a legitimate purpose to monitor that area. If your assets or personal belongings have been stolen in the past, you may ask for permission to install a CCTV camera outside your office, store, or home.

Places where CCTV cameras should not be installed

There are areas where you should never consider installing a CCTV camera. These areas include private locations such as a bathroom or changing room for working in a clothing store, whether at home, in a store, or in business.

Installing CCTV cameras in any of these areas can pose serious legal issues. Also, it is not advisable to install CCTV cameras focused on government facilities.

Also, the installation of CCTV voice recordings without authorisation is illegal. One should also apply for permission if recording of sound is necessary.

Install the CCTV camera outside the HDB apartment

The installation of CCTV cameras outside the HDB apartment requires the applicable approval from the Town council. The area outside your home is considered a common area managed by the Town council. By law, you must obtain a permit to install structures, equipment, and objects in public places such as CCTV cameras.

Installation of commercial CCTV cameras

Unlike installing CCTV cameras for home use, organizations are subject to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which complicates the installation of CCTV cameras for commercial use.

Collection, use, or disclosure of CCTV cameras must comply with PDPA requirements for the camera to record personal data such as personally identifiable images.


Camera systems may be useful for some as it helps to reduce the number of security officers needed to be deployed for manual monitoring. This allows for the re-allocation of manpower for more important purposes. Of course, having CCTV generally gives people a peace of mind and that their property is protected. However, we should assess the advantages and disadvantages of whether the implementation is appropriate for the objective. One should also consider the impact it has on the stakeholders on the property.

If you are looking to equip yourself with the skills to operate security equipment such as CCTV, you can more details on our courses here.