Cameras in cabs are fine, as long as privacy is protected

Hong Kong’s much-maligned taxi industry is at a crossroad, so any measures such as CCTV are to be welcomed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 1:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 1:36am

Hong Kong’s taxi industry is feeling the heat. Its reputation has been battered by complaints from passengers about poor quality service. The number of daily trips is in decline. Competition from ride-hailing services is growing and, in June, the government announced plans to introduce 600 premium taxis through franchises. Clearly, there is a need for the taxi industry to respond – and to clean up its act.

One measure adopted in a bid to improve standards of service is the introduction of closed-circuit television cameras in some cabs. The Association of Taxi Industry Development, set up recently by taxi owners, has declared its pilot scheme a success. The trial ran for a month, with cameras installed in at least 20 taxis. It will now be expanded.

The CCTV cameras can provide valuable evidence to back up customer complaints or establish the truth if there are disputes with drivers. The presence of a camera in the cab can also encourage both drivers and passengers to be on their best behaviour. But privacy is a concern. The association took advice from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and has sought to ensure that the recordings are secure. They will only be viewed in appropriate circumstances, such as at the request of the police. Customers are also informed when getting into the taxi that a camera is installed.

CCTV in your cab? Hong Kong taxi group offers trial run to improve customer service

CCTV is used in taxis in other parts of the world, including Australia and Britain. It can help raise standards of service and provide a safer environment for passengers and drivers alike. But there is a need to proceed cautiously to ensure people’s privacy is protected. The association wants the government to make CCTV mandatory for taxis. If the use of cameras in cabs grows and is well received by passengers, there may come a time when such a step makes sense. If so, legislation which includes strict privacy safeguards will be needed. It is good to see the taxi industry responding to its problems. Whether with CCTV cameras or without them, an improvement in service quality is required.