Audio-video recording in taxis an elephant-size solution to ant-size problem

Taxis at the Lucky Plaza taxi stand.
Taxis at the Lucky Plaza taxi stand.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Land Transport Authority has approved the use of audio-video recording by inward-facing cameras in taxis and private-hire cars (Audio recording to be allowed in taxis and private-hire cars, July 3).

This is a step backwards as far as protecting an individual's right to privacy is concerned.

First, there is no significant security reason that justifies this decision.

The number of cases of fare evasion was only 230 out of 287 million rides in 2017.

Similarly, the absolute number and the proportion of passengers who physically attack a driver are insignificant.

So why is LTA proposing this elephant-size solution to solve ant-size problems?

Europe sets an example of how individual rights are not sacrificed at the altar of national security interests.

It is against the law in Germany to install a camera in a public lift or a taxi, for example. Employers in Germany cannot even post pictures of individual employees on their intranets without the permission of the employee.

The underlying philosophy is one that enshrines individual rights as inalienable.

China, on the other hand, has no qualms about individual rights being subservient to the so-called societal needs in conducting mass surveillance. It is even implementing a social credit system that uses data collected through mass surveillance to rate individuals.

Singapore is at a critical fork in the road.

Do we want to continue on our path to build a First World, developed, gracious and humane society as the European Union is trying to do, or do we want to move down the slippery slope of monitoring every second of every citizen's life as is already beginning to happen in China?

Rahul Patwardhan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2019, with the headline 'Audio-video recording in taxis an elephant-size solution to ant-size problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe