The information watchdog has said that Southampton City Council has to stop recording the conversations that are had between drivers and passengers in taxis. Christopher Graham is the Information Commissioner and he has said the Council had, “gone too far” to ensuring people’s safety.
He went on to add that people would expect a higher level of privacy as they are already being recorded. “By requiring taxi operators to record all conversations and images while the vehicles are in use, Southampton City Council has gone too far.
“We recognise the council’s 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.”
He carried on saying many taxi drivers use their cars outside of work so recording all their conversations is just unnecessary and privacy needs to be respected.
“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.”
It was also revealed that something similar was happening in Oxford which could have breached the Data Protection Act. They have now suspended this scheme.
They are hoping that by having the scheme suspended in Oxford this will show all Councils that legal obligations need to be thoroughly thought through.
Many taxi drivers have had to pay for the CCTV camera’s to be added to their vehicles so if more Councils decide to have conversations recorded, this will cause extra cost implications for the drivers. Most are struggling with the increasing costs of fuel, UK taxi insurance and road tax so any other extra costs will not be greatly welcomed.
Nick Pickles is the director of the campaign group Big Brother Watch and he said, “Recording every minute of every passenger’s conversations in taxis is an unjustified and intrusive measure, and we’re please the Information Commissioner is now taking action against to stop Southampton Council forcing taxi drivers to spy on their customers.”