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Beware dangers of surveillance

COMPANIES using surveillance equipment to monitor people engaged in ‘private’ activities will face penalties of up to $50,000 under new WA legislation soon to become law.

The Surveillance Devices Act defines when and where people can be filmed, taped and tracked with surveillance equipment.

Law firm Barker Gosling partner Michael Sonter said the new law would require many employers, retailers and private investigators to consider the way they operated.

“Any company that undertakes video surveillance of an activity that could in any way be deemed ‘private’ needs to assess its procedures and seek advice on what is now legal and what isn’t,” Mr Sonter said.

He said the new legislation generally prohibited the monitoring and recording of private conversations and private activities. Nor can surveillance equipment be used to track a person.

“With some exceptions, a recording of a conversation or activity can only occur when both parties have expressly or impliedly consented — which is probably not the case in a lot of situations,” Mr Sonter said.

“It will be up to the courts to interpret whether surveillance has occurred in an environment where people could reasonably expect a conversation to be overheard or an activity to be open to general observation.

“It raises the question of exactly where people can reasonably be expected to be recorded or monitored.”

It will be necessary to apply to a judge who will decide on public interest grounds whether to allow the publication or communication of recordings of private activities or conversations.

Companies will now need to establish where and when people can be monitored and in what situation they need to request permission.

Regulations are expected to be issued relating to the new legislation to provide additional guidance on how the law will apply.

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