Over the past few months, we have seen videos being posted on social media of physical altercations, poor service delivery and racial slurs, but the victims of the videos and audible recordings are usually unaware that they are being recorded. The recordings are conducted without their permission and then shared. But is someone allowed to record you without being granted permission and the share those recordings?
Audio recording includes the recording of conversations conducted over the phone, recording someone speaking to a room full of people, and recording a direct conversation, without the other party’s permission. Recording without consent is against the law, unless
- You are party to the communication;
- You have written permission of one of the parties to the conversation;
- The recording is in connection with the carrying on of business.
Direct video recording
This is the recording of a person with whom you are having a face-to-face conversation. The video taping of someone without their consent is permissible because you are party to the conversation, much like audio recordings. Recording an altercation between you and someone else, or recording an altercation at an airport is legal due to where the conversation is occurring – a public place.
Section 4 of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act 70 of 2002 (RICA) defines that a person is party to the conversation if they are in audible presence of the conversation. If you are in an altercation in a vicinity where other people can hear you, they are permitted to film because they are party to the altercation, therefore in direct communication with you.
Indirect video recording
Indirect communication is a much wider category, which includes data, speech and moving images. Skype conversations, although they appear to be face-to-face, are included as indirect communication because it is communication through an online telecommunications service. Thus, you would need to either be one of the parties in the engagement, or have been given consent from one of the parties to record the video/messages.
When is it illegal?
- If the recording is through an interceptive method such as “bugging” or a “tapping” a device;
- Hiding to spy on one of the parties for recording purposes, due to the parties being unaware of your presence;
- When you are in no way party to the conversation. Being party to the conversation is if you are the sender, the recipient, or any person included in the communication.
Exception: RICA permits recordings carried out by law enforcement personnel in certain circumstances.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)
Kevin Illes, A. (2017). Legal implications of secret recording. [online] Moneyweb. Available at: https://www.moneyweb.co.za/archive/legal-implications-of-secret-recording/ [Accessed 15 Jun. 2017].
Writer, S. and Writer, S. (2017). When you can – and can’t – legally record someone in South Africa. [online] Businesstech.co.za. Available at: https://businesstech.co.za/news/general/167107/__trashed-65/ [Accessed 15 Jun. 2017].