Istanbul municipality’s transportation application draws criticism over audio, video recording in cabs

Istanbul municipality’s transportation application draws criticism over audio, video recording in cabs

İdris Emen - ISTANBUL
Istanbul municipality’s transportation application draws criticism over audio, video recording in cabs

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A new mobile transportation initiative by the Istanbul municipality has drawn angry reaction from the public over enabling audio and video recording in cabs during travels, with legal experts describing the move as a “violation of the right to privacy.”

The iTaksi initiative, supported by an Uber-like mobile application, will introduce cabs with audio and video recording starting from August as a part of a circular issued by the security general directorate. 

The move immediately brought debate in legal terms with concerns over private life in Istanbul, which currently has 17,395 cabs.

“The voice and image of someone are a part of his or her private life and under protection as required by personal rights. An intervention on someone’s private life without their consent is against the law. The intervention also constitutes a crime in accordance with the 134th article of the Turkish penal code,” lawyer Uğur Poyraz said.

The move amounted to the violation of the right to privacy and would create problems in the future, he noted.

“As a result of the recording for example, recording a phone call or any personal and commercial private information shared inside cabs may create actions that constitute a crime,” said Poyraz.

Having already been set up in a total of 3,000 cabs, there are cameras just above the rear-view mirror in iTaksi cabs. The cameras can record both inside and outside the cabs but there is no warning that there is audio and video recording inside the cab.

“It is obligatory for such a recording to be notified to the person in advance. Otherwise, the recording will be against the law. With this in mind, there should be visible texts on the mobile application and in cabs containing this information and drivers should also notify their passengers,” Poyraz said.

However, Yahya Uğur, the head of the Istanbul’s Chamber of Artisan Taxi Drivers (İTEO), stated the recordings in iTaksi were in line with the law, defending that the inside of cabs were public spaces.

“The inside of a cab is a public space and it does not have any relationship to private life. No one will be able to watch those cameras except for emergency situations and they will only record. Footages will be examined by prosecutors in case of a complaint,” Yahya said.

Meanwhile, IT specialist lawyer Mehmet Ali Köksal said the implementation was not temperate.

“The fact that video and audio recording is always active inside cabs is also a big problem in terms of collecting the personal data in line with the law. The recording of that data is a violation of the right to privacy,” Köksal said while urging an audio-only recording in emergency cases.

The Istanbul municipality stated camera records would be encrypted and could not be reached by drivers citing it was authorized to actively record to investigate legal incidents by the security general directorate.

Additionally, the Istanbul Bar Association filed a lawsuit on July 20 to the notice of the Security General Directorate over recording inside cabs and demanded the cancelation of the initiative.