Does the issue of street cameras imply that the privacy of Mauritians are being violated? A number of lawyers have spoken about this, deploring the whole concept of recording that activities of people on the streets. They also shared their worries about the possible use of the information from the biometric national identity cards for identification purposes.
Not everyone is pleased of the announcement that the main streets of Mauritius will now be equipped with cameras. Mind you, these are no ordinary cameras. They have been endowed with facial recognition technology. The project will cater for 300 cameras in total. The purpose is to detect any crime committed along the streets of Mauritius. Identifying malefactors just got easier! But, well, some are worried about the implications involved: is Mauritius turning into a police state? Should the citizens of the island be anxious about their activities being supervised without their permission?
How will these cameras be used? Question whose answer seems to be quite blurry. Some Mauritians feel that their fundamental rights are being trampled upon. What with the recent clashes regarding the national identity card, whereby some people have opposed the taking of their fingerprints, now some people are worried lest the issue of street cameras might encroach on their privacy.
The important aspects of the street camera projects have not been detailed by the police. What is the intended function of the facial recognition technology? Which laws are to govern the use of these cameras? The silence is deafening to those who are asking for answers, like lawyers Raouf Gulbul, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, Roshi Bhadain, amongst others. Will the data derived from the biometric national identity card be used in concert with the information to be obtained from the cameras? This argument is being justified by the possibility of having the police requesting access to the information encoded in the biometric card in question to join the dots when examining videos recorded from the cameras.
The images of the faces captured by the cameras can hence be given names if these two sets of informations are synchronised. If this were to be the case, Mauritius might be discouraged from participating in demonstrations since their identities might easily be determined. Raouf Gulbul adds to the already long list of arguments that all movements and actions will now be recorded, and hence will be under control.
The opponents of the two projects fear that the privacy and choices of Mauritians are being violated. Will the citizens have to fear being watched and supervised while they are merely walking down the streets? Constant surveillance?
Others argue that facial recognition is not relevant to the Mauritian context. The island is not dominated by activities tantamount to those of European countries, for instance, with the implications that open frontiers bring.