Anger over 'peeping' traffic cam

By Zhan Lisheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-13 08:16

SHENZHEN - Many people here are angry on learning that a traffic surveillance camera had been trained on their homes in this southern city of Guangdong province.

They have called on the authorities to take immediate action against those responsible.

"I am worried my family maybe a victim, although we always draw our curtains at night," a woman surnamed Zhang said on Monday.

South Metropolis Daily reported that a traffic surveillance camera in the district of Luohu, was used by someone to peek into nearby houses.

Zhou Changhe, one of the reporters of the Guangzhou-based newspaper who exposed the story, said he received a tip-off on April 26 about the misuse of a video camera.

He and his colleagues spent eight days investigation the case.

"The camera would be trained on the bedrooms and bathrooms of well-lit apartments every day from midnight to 5:30 am, and women were the main targets," Zhou said.

"It's horrible," a man surnamed Hui said. He lives in the same building as Zhang.

"I know there is a video camera on the building opposite for monitoring traffic. It surprises me how it can be used to peek into the homes of people," he said.

The camera was installed in 1997.

More than 700 families live in two residential buildings in area. The camera was capable of being trained on half the families.

Shen Shaobao, deputy director of the municipal public security bureau, said investigations into the case have begun.

He said it would not be very difficult to identify those involved, as data in the video camera can be stored for 15 days.

Many government institutions including the police, urban management, environmental protection, and sanitation are authorized to use monitoring cameras.

Shenzhen began to install cameras across the city in September 2005 to combat crime and monitor traffic. By the end of 2006, there were more than 200,000 such cameras.

In 2006, police dealt with 209,000 public security cases, an increase of 280 percent over 2005.

The cameras were credited for the boost.

However, it also sparked concerns about privacy.

In cities such as Beijing, Chongqing, and Guangzhou, there are strict rules on the use of such cameras.

In Beijing, organizations owning these cameras can be fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to 30,000 yuan for misuse.

But in Shenzhen, there are no such regulations.

"I'll lodge a lawsuit against the government department responsible, if there is any evidence I have been photographed," Hui said.

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