Don't I have any privacy? Foreign worker asks after employer installs CCTV camera in his bedroom

Syed's room with the CCTV camera installed in the top right hand corner.
PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

In public spaces, hardly anyone bats an eyelid at CCTV cameras but it's a different matter when you spot one planted in the corner of your own bedroom.

Syed*, a foreign worker, was curious to know if his employer was allowed to install such devices in his bedroom.

The CCTV camera was installed on Tuesday (June 7) and later that day, Syed posted to a Facebook group, in search of answers.

Syed, who has been working in Singapore for about 10 years, has only been living in this room located in the north-eastern region of Singapore for about six months.

"Don't I have any privacy inside my bedroom?" he asked in his post, adding that he shares the small room with another person.

Syed told AsiaOne that he had trouble sleeping on Tuesday as he was "always thinking I'm in a prison under CCTV".

By posting on Facebook, he was hoping someone could shed light on rules or laws in Singapore that are relevant to his situation. 

Unfortunately for him, a number of netizens brushed off his concerns and joked around instead.

"I think [it] is because you are too handsome la," one wrote. Another netizen asked: "You man or woman? If man, why bother?"

However, there were also others who said that privacy is a right and that seeking help from authorities would be Syed's best option.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

Syed told AsiaOne he was directed to contact the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) after he contacted the police for help regarding the installation of the CCTV camera.

"This morning [June 8], I talked to MOM and the officer said I can cover the CCTV with something. Later, in a few days, MOM people will come and investigate," he told AsiaOne.

For now, the CCTV camera in his room is covered up with tissue paper.

AsiaOne understands that there are no current advisories or guidelines for male workers on installation of CCTV in bedrooms and we have reached out to MOM for more information.

According to MOM's guidelines for employers of foreign domestic workers on its website, it said that an employer must inform the domestic worker of the cameras' locations should they wish to install video-recording devices at home

The cameras must not be installed in areas that would compromise one's privacy or modesty — such as where she sleeps, changes clothes or in the toilets.

Lawyer Raphael Louis of Ray Louis Law Corporation told AsiaOne that if the CCTV was installed without Syed's consent, the employer "could be in breach of the Personal Data Protection Act and/or a criminal offence under 377BB of the Penal code for voyeurism".

"For voyeurism, if the employer installed a hidden equipment (without consent) and intentionally recorded a private act by the employee, he could be guilty of an offence. This normally attracts a jail sentence," he said.

According to Louis, the severity of the punishment depends on factors such as the number of victims, if the offender had similar offences in the past and how long the camera was installed for.

"My perception is that most [of] these crimes are targeted at women. For male foreign workers, I personally have not encountered [a case]," he added.

*Not his real name

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amierul@asiaone.com