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January 12, 2011

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Court rules cameras intruded on privacy

A LOCAL man has been ordered to remove surveillance cameras he had installed to discover who was dumping rubbish at his door, as judges said he could use them to spy on his neighbor.

Even though the resident, surnamed Pan, insisted the cameras were intended to uncover the culprit, judges at Xuhui District People's Court said they might record the private life of his neighbor.

Pan told the court that last July someone had been leaving rubbish outside his door. He quizzed his neighbor, surnamed Zhang, with whom he'd previously had a dispute over public space, but she denied any involvement.

To collect evidence, Pan installed one camera outside his door and another on the wall of the southern balcony.

Zhang complained that the cameras monitored her southern balcony, as well as the northern balcony and corridor she shared with Pan.

The cameras invaded her privacy when she passed these areas, Zhang argued.

Pan insisted it was a good arrangement for both sides. He said there would be no more misunderstandings if he caught the person responsible for dumping rubbish.

Moreover, the cameras could also help reduce theft in the building, said Pan.

But the court said the cameras monitored public spaces closely related to Zhang's life and was for Pan's personal purposes, with no wider public interest. The cameras violated Zhang's privacy, they said.

"Cameras are widely used in people's personal life," said Hou Rongkang, a judge of the court. "But people can't abuse the function of cameras and upset others."

Liu Chunquan, a lawyer with the Panocean law firm, said determining whether a surveillance camera violates others people's privacy is the basic principle for judging their lawfulness.


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