Virgin Active gym puts up signage after members express shock over CCTV near showers, sauna room

Screengrabs of footage taken from the CCTV in the communal area of the female Relax and Recovery Zone at Virgin Active's Raffles Place gym.
Screengrabs of footage taken from the CCTV in the communal area of the female Relax and Recovery Zone at Virgin Active's Raffles Place gym.PHOTO: FACEBOOK / VIRGIN ACTIVE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Gym operator Virgin Active came under fire from social media users recently after several members highlighted that they were unaware of a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) in an area that they had thought was not under surveillance.

The gym operator has since put up temporary signage to inform gym users where the particular CCTV is pointing at, and is waiting for permanent signage to be delivered, said a Virgin Active spokesman in response to queries from The Straits Times on Monday (March 18).

The CCTV in question is installed in the communal area of the female Relax and Recovery Zone at the Raffles Place branch, said Virgin Active.

Netizens have commented, saying that this area is next to the showers and sauna room. Many "consider this to be part of the changing room", said Facebook user Aakriti Maheshwary.

Other netizens also said they had seen women walking in the area in various stages of undress and were shocked to find out that the area was being monitored.

Many expressed a need for clear signage to let members know that the area was being filmed by CCTV.

User Chloe Fair said she was "extremely unhappy" that she had been unaware of the camera in the area after patronising the club for more than two years.

The first official complaint was made by a member on Feb 21, said the Virgin Active spokesman.

He also said that the CCTV was installed primarily for the security of members and staff, and to monitor any intrusions from the fire escape located in the communal area of the female Relax and Recovery Zone.

The CCTV has been in place in the same location since the club's opening in October 2013, and the camera was upgraded last year, said Virgin Active in a Facebook comment.

The footage is routinely reviewed once a month to ensure the camera is functioning properly. It is also accessed if there are any reported incidents in the club, added the spokesman.

Last Friday, the gym operator posted on Facebook about the issue, and also uploaded screenshots from CCTV footage to show where the camera was pointing at.

On Monday, a new Facebook post said that the company expressed "regret over the distress this has caused", and emphasised that there are no CCTVs installed inside the changing rooms.

It added that the company would seriously consider re-angling the camera in question more towards the fire escape following the incident.

The company was also criticised for some of its responses to comments on Facebook, which had annoyed netizens with its choice of words.

Virgin Active's reply to a Facebook user's comment on its post on March 15, 2019.

One user wrote: "Erm... Why is there a CCTV in the changing room? This is so wrong and I am extremely concerned."

Virgin Active replied in a comment that has since been removed: "... the CCTV is positioned where our female members can pick up a bathrobe before using our relax and recovery facilities... And while we celebrate body positivity just like anyone living in the now times and is morally obligated to stay woke and is part of the me too movement, we trust our members are aware enough to be covered up when moving through the club."

Those who saw the reply were unhappy with the tone that Virgin Active had taken.

One user called it "snarky and off-tangent" while another said that the staff member replying to comments was making the situation worse.

A Virgin Active spokesman said that the company apologised for the "lack of sensitivity" in its replies, which was "unintentional".

He added that the staff involved has been counselled and will be attending training to be aware of the "intrinsic sensitivities our members have".