Vumacam reviews surveillance system as POPI Act kicks in

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Ricky Croock, CEO of video management company Vumacam.
Ricky Croock, CEO of video management company Vumacam.

Vumacam is reviewing all operational guidelines, analysing current systems and assessing whether further intervention is required to ensure compliance with the newly promulgated Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act.

Ricky Croock, CEO of the video management company, says privacy and data protection are fundamental to Vumacam’s operations when providing support to law enforcement and private security companies through its technology platform.

He says prior to SA’s data protection law, Vumacam had already instilled strict protocols around privacy and data protection using the European GDPR data protection regulations as a guideline.

With the POPI regulations now published, Vumacam says it is enhancing compliance.

Local organisations were recently urged to comply with the data protection law.

In an interview with ITWeb a fortnight ago, Pansy Tlakula, chairperson of the Information Regulator, warned her office won’t tolerate excuses for non-compliance.

Tlakula emphasised that everyone – public and private bodies – still have a period of one year from 1 July to put compliance processes and mechanisms in place, to ensure they comply and conform to the Act.

Consequently, Croock tells ITWeb that: “Because Vumacam elected to adapt the European GDPR data protection regulations as a standard, all data is already secured as safely and securely as technology and systems allow.

“We have also done extensive penetration testing through a highly-regarded third-party and we test our team on a regular basis to ensure strict compliance. We believe that we comply with POPI regulations; however, we take the regulation very seriously and we’re reviewing all guidelines.”

He says Vumacam invested heavily in upgrading its systems to ensure it is compliant with the POPI Act.

“We have invested significantly over time and not just in response to POPI, which regulates data and privacy protection which are fundamental to how Vumacam operates. Our systems ensure data and privacy is protected at all touchpoints,” says Croock.

“The ability to manage and store video data securely and in compliance with regulations is expensive and a significant barrier to entry for many CCTV companies that may have wished to execute a full city-wide network at scale. Vumacam has a long-term model in place to ensure all the belts and braces are in place to build and maintain a robust network.”

Addressing the contentious issue of individual privacy, Croock explains: “Our algorithms alert on public behaviour, therefore the privacy of individuals is not impacted. Licence plates exist to make a vehicle publicly identifiable, and our licence plate recognition systems flag only vehicles entered into law enforcement databases or by security companies.

“This is monitored and audited so that there is visibility on what has been loaded on the system, by whom and for what purpose.”

Professor Jane Duncan, a leading academic, previously criticised the massive rollout of private camera networks in the City of Johannesburg, saying there were no consultations and residents should have a say in what happens to their data.

However, Croock says: “All data captured is protected and stored in line with international best practices and POPI regulation, and is only ever provided to relevant law enforcement or security companies when a case number or court order is supplied.”

Additionally, Croock says Vumacam surveys for criminal activity in the public domain, unless in the case of private property owners who have themselves run a feed through their cameras to Vumacam platforms.

“Our systems do not capture or store any activity that is not public or criminal in nature. Footage cannot be downloaded but only viewed. If footage is deemed important to be downloaded, it can only be retrieved by a designated person who is employed by Vumacam. We track all queries and maintain stringent records of footage requests.”

According to Croock, the system has exceeded expectations, with over 300 cars related to crime incidents being intercepted in the past 12 months.

He says in general, communities “are pleased with the presence of our cameras because of the proven impact they have on reducing crime.

“Where we have received objections (and this has been limited to two or three specific parties) this is mostly due to individuals not understanding, or being ill-informed on how our cameras operate, what they capture, why and when. They also don’t understand the stringent levels of security we put in place to control data, or requests for footage.”

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