Leaked CCTV footage can get owners sued

CCTV footage

From the corridors of hotels, behind counters at banks to even in cars and on motorcycle helmets – cameras are everywhere.

And more often than not, footage from these cameras is made public when something happens.

In the eagerness to make public a robbery or road rage, sometimes even before a police report is lodged, disseminating such visuals via WhatsApp or on YouTube could border on invasion of privacy.

“However, in Malaysia, there is no specific law like the Privacy Act. The closest we have is the Personal Data Protection Act (which only protects the personal data of a data subject). So we have to rely on common law,” said senior lawyer Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos.

“Under common law is it arguable, for example if a video which invades a person’s privacy is made viral then it becomes actionable in court.

“Footage from establishments should not be leaked out. If there is an invasion of privacy, then the victim should sue the owner or operator,” he added.

As for footage of dashcams made public, Jahaberdeen said the culpability will be determined on reasonableness.

“So the question is what the footage was about. Did the owner maliciously take someone’s video and invade his or her privacy, took the footage without the person’s consent and made it public or is the owner releasing data or information that will cause the person harm?

“If people can identity you or that the vehicle in question is yours, then you can sue the person who made the footage public, for defamation.”

Jahaberdeen said CCTV owners could face various legal actions, including under media laws, by leaking unauthorised and unwarranted videos on the public domain.

“Under media laws, we are looking at privacy, defamation, obscenity … the footage may show a man having a meal with a woman and create the presumption that the duo were committing adultery when it was in fact a business meeting. So people must be very careful when they ‘viral’ stuff, just because they have not been caught before, it doesn’t mean it’s okay to do so.

“Those who own the footage could face a civil suit or legal action under the Penal Code, for example, if the footage is obscene.

“Let’s say if I shared a video of a couple kissing passionately in public with the intention of saying that it’s a terrible act, I could be sued for obscenity,” he added.

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