A mother has been left “horrified” after live images of her children were beamed from a city council camera for public consumption.
Tatiana Elvery from the town of Wānaka in New Zealand says a “massive, shiny” pole was erected by the local council directly outside of her parents-in-law’s property with a camera atop that was recording everything.
The council says the 30-foot pole was installed to monitor weather conditions, air quality, and wildfire risk. But Elvery tells Crux that images of her children were being broadcast in real-time on a connected app.
Elvery says it is “absolutely unacceptable that people’s backyards are being monitored without prior consent” and there was no discussion with her parents-in-law before the spy pole was erected.
The images were shown as a timelapse with just a 30-minute delay and were broadcast from 06:00 to 18:00.
“For example, if I watched the timelapse at 12:20, I could see 06:00 to 11:50, but if I watched at 20:00, I could see 06:00 to 18:00.”
The council admits to the error, calling the “data showing private residences during the pre-launch testing period is regrettable as it was not intended for public access”.
The pole contains visual and thermal imaging equipment that transmits real-time information that is made available on an app called Attentis.
The council wants the pole to monitor environmental conditions so the community can learn how to adapt and build resilience to changing weather patterns.
The council’s CCTV policy states that where cameras are installed they must be clearly signposted and “all due care must be taken to ensure CCTV systems operated by QLDC do not capture images from private dwellings”.
Wānaka councilor Quentin Smith has been in touch with Elvery after she complained about the intrusive camera to the council.
The council insists that it is still early days and that the technology’s issues will be “ironed out”. A “Privacy Impact Assessment” will be undertaken before the system officially goes live, and the final setup will only show images relating to council reserve land — and not underage private residents.
“Privacy considerations are a priority for the council,” Wānaka town adds.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.