Invasion of privacy or just a precaution?

In September, Ms Susanto filed a compliant with Home over the cameras.
In September, Ms Susanto filed a complaint with Home over the cameras.ST PHOTO: JANICE TAI

The three closed-circuit television cameras in her employer's house were not just for keeping a close eye on her. Their attached audio speakers were used to bark commands at the maid.

So, Ms Susanto (not her real name) could be asleep when a voice from a camera speaker would instruct her to "wake up and boil water for the baby". Or the 27-year-old could be texting her friends while winding down for the day when a shout would come: "Go and sleep now!"

The 24-hour surveillance, coupled with the beck-and-call routine, became a bit too much for Ms Susanto, who had worked for the family for the past seven months. Last month, she flew back home to the Philippines after failing to find another employer to transfer to.

In late September, she had lodged a complaint with the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) over the cameras and having to clean two houses. "There was no privacy, and I could not rest properly," Ms Susanto told The Sunday Times.

The cameras were placed in the kitchen, living room and the room where she slept with a newborn baby. Her employer, who is in her 30s, viewed the footage on her smartphone. "I know I am being watched because when I sing in the kitchen, I can hear my voice coming from the phone that she is looking at while sitting on the sofa outside," said Ms Susanto.

She did not want to be identified as she feared being blacklisted by the employer. She hopes to return to Singapore to work one day.

She added that she knew of another maid who left her employer recently for similar reasons, after working for the family for two years. Her friend had found a hidden camera on the door rack next to where she changed clothes.

Ms Susanto said her employer told her the cameras were a precaution to protect the baby. "I feel so sad because there was no trust, so why did they hire me then?" asked the single mother of a five-year-old son. "My priority had always been the household and the baby."

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Invasion of privacy or just a precaution?'. Print Edition | Subscribe