Queensland phone, seatbelt cameras could face review amid 'sexual privacy rights' concerns

| 18.03,23. 07:26 AM |

Queensland phone, seatbelt cameras could face review amid 'sexual privacy rights' concerns

Driver with hands off steering wheel, using mobile phone in their lap.
A civil liberties advocate says women could be losing their "sexual privacy rights" when photographed by the cameras. File photo.(Supplied: Transport and Main Roads)

Rules that govern how public servants handle potentially explicit photographs taken by traffic cameras could be reviewed after a top civil liberties advocate warned the "sexual privacy rights" of female drivers in Queensland could be at risk.  

The traffic cameras are on a tower and photograph drivers and passengers as part of a campaign cracking down on seatbelts and illegal mobile phone use.

Similar cameras came under scrutiny this week after a New South Wales woman complained after she was sent a photo clearly showing her underwear alongside a fine for using a mobile phone.

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman has warned women may already be losing their privacy.

NSW reviews cameras

The New South Wales Minister for Roads Natalie Ward ordered a review of privacy protocols but the Queensland Department of Transport has previously declined to follow suit.

A spokeswoman defended the process in Queensland, saying the photos were only viewed by authorised staff, and were treated in line with the state's privacy principles.

A wide shot of a mobile traffic camera on wheels, with cars visible on a road next to it
The mobile cameras have been introduced in Queensland to catch drivers using phones or not wearing seatbelts.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Advocate calls for stronger rules

Mr O'Gorman said public servants in Queensland and elsewhere have been prosecuted for accessing databases to find details of women "so they can approach them and ask them out".

A man in a pink shirt with a red tie sits at a desk looking at papers and into the camera
Terry O'Gorman has called for more stringent rules to protect the privacy of female drivers.(ABC News: Marton Dobras)

He said there needed to be stronger rules, overseen by the Privacy Commissioner, to guarantee male staff were not able to view or access photos of female drivers.

"It is inevitable that some male public servants will in effect start perving on these pictures," he said.

Under department rules, photos taken by the cameras are first analysed by an artificial intelligence program that detects possible offences.

A car driver with both hands on mobile phone
A Transport Department spokeswoman says only photos depicting an offence are stored.(Transport and Main Roads)

The images are then viewed by staff in the Queensland Revenue Office, who decide whether a fine is given.

A Transport Department spokeswoman said only photos showing an offence were stored.

Mr O'Gorman said that could be "equally a problem".

"No-one should accept any assurances from the minister or any state government department heads here that the privacy issues are working properly," he said.

"They're not working properly in New South Wales, you can take it almost as a given they're not working properly in Queensland."

State body found 'risks associated'

The state's Office of the Information Commissioner was consulted as the laws were being developed.

A spokeswoman said it found "there was some risks associated with the use of the cameras, including the photographing of images of this nature", but noted the department had taken steps to limit access.

A man with short cropped hair in a white collared shirt and blue tie
Mark Bailey says he will discuss possible changes with the Privacy Commissioner and his department.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the cameras were introduced to Queensland "with a cautious and conservative approach to privacy" but after multiple enquiries, said a review would be discussed.

"I'm happy to consider any advice the Privacy Commissioner may provide if there is a need for the current privacy regulations to be strengthened," he said.

He said he would now work with the Transport Department on possible changes.

(Votes: 0)

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