'Public's right to poo' should be protected

BY MAGGIE TAIT
Last updated 17:28 25/03/2010

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The public's right to poo in private needs to be better protected, politicians were told today.

Journalist Neale McMillan raised concerns about the widespread use of surveillance cameras in public spaces and the lack of control over how footage is used when he appeared before Parliament's justice and electoral select committee.

He produced photographs of cameras actually inside public toilets in Kaikoura which would record people using facilities.

Mr McMillan urged MPs to take to heart a Law Commission report - Invasion of Privacy: Penalties and Remedies: Review of the Law of Privacy - released in February calling for greater privacy protections, including tougher restrictions on harassment and covert surveillance.

The review recommended the creation of a new law to cover the use of surveillance and tracking devices.

Mr McMillan said the toilets in Kaikoura demonstrated the lack of boundaries around the use of surveillance cameras. He said individuals who watched others use toilets were prosecuted and society deemed such perversion unacceptable.

"The 'official' use of cameras installed above toilet cubicles is no less repugnant, particularly if there is scope for such records to be misused or abused. For disabled people to be surreptitiously monitored whilst they perform the most personal bodily functions is abhorrent."

Mr McMillan, a life member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, said the use of cameras was prevalent even around Parliament - there was one in the committee room where he was speaking.

In Parliament there were strict rules about where and when media could film yet there were surveillance cameras operating in the debating chamber and there was little information available about why they were there, who had access to the records and whether records could be misused.

National MP Simon Bridges said while he understood Mr McMillan's concerns crimes, including murder, did happen in toilets. He suggested strict rules about who could run the surveillance and where cameras could be directed.

People often did not use toilets because they were not considered safe, he said.

Mr McMillan said the cameras could be outside the toilets. He told the committee one photo of a surveillance camera was taken while he sat on one of the Kaikoura toilets, which showed that it could film him.

Labour MP David Parker said technology had changed and the law had not kept up. He suggested while police faced surveillance boundaries, there was little control on others.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Simon Power said he would not be commenting on whether the Law Commission's recommendations would be picked up until it produced its final report, there are four in the series on privacy, expected late this year.

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