A Woolworths shopper has caused a stir after taking a picture of a surveillance camera at the entrance to the ladies’ fitting rooms at Woolworths in the Pavilion Shopping Centre, in Durban, and posting it on Facebook.
Woolworths has responded, saying the cameras are fixed and do not focus inside the cubicles.
Sonal Madhoo tagged Woolworths South Africa in a post saying: “Hey WOOLWORTHS, what’s up with the cameras in the fitting rooms of your Pavilion Shopping Centre store? Are you usually in the business of invading the privacy of your customers?”
This is not the first time people have expressed concern over the issue.
In April 2016, Tambo okaDumiso from Richards Bay tweeted that there were cameras inside the ladies’ fitting room. Woolworths responded, saying the camera focused on the fitting room desk, not inside the fitting rooms. However, the camera was covered up a few days later
On Sunday, the Daily News went to the Woolworths’ ladies’ fitting rooms at Musgrave Centre and at the Pavilion. There was no camera at Musgrave, but there was one at the Pavilion.
The Daily News went into three cubicles and found that you could not see the camera unless you stood on something or were extremely tall.
Kirsten Hewett, Woolworths’ head of communications, said they had responded to Madhoo’s post.
“We confirm that there are cameras which are positioned according to our specifications, which is that they are fixed and only focus on the entrance of the fitting rooms in order to review process.
“These cameras are installed in such a way that it is not possible to see into the cubicles,” Hewett said.
She said she could not answer all of the Daily News’ questions for security reasons. However, she could confirm that it was standard specification for there to be a camera to view the point of entry to the fitting rooms.
Professor Tanya Woker, a legal expert on consumer law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Woolworths could not have cameras where they could view people changing because this would be an invasion of privacy. “But we are subjected to cameras all over the place, so anyone complaining would have to show some kind of invasion of privacy. Woolworths would argue these cameras are in a public space and are for security issues.”
Woker said shopping centres have many surveillance cameras; if there is a problem, the first thing people ask is to view the camera footage to see if they can catch the perpetrators.
“So it may be difficult to argue that Woolworths is invading privacy when cameras are commonplace in other areas.
“Only if they are actually watching people change could it be viewed as a problem,” she said.