Pakistanis are questioning their privacy rights after a cinema in Lahore released surveillance footage of couples.
The videos showed them engaging in intimacy and people are outraged that the videos were taken in the first place. Former director-general of the Punjab chief minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit and activist Salman Sufi was the first to highlight the issue on Twitter.
“Just found that video recordings of citizens from cinema halls in Pakistan have been shared around. This is not acceptable and is a violation of [the] law. We demand that all theatres/public places delete all video recordings that have no recorded safety threat as soon as possible,” he wrote.
He also said a non-disclosure agreement should be added to every ticket that is purchased, which will give citizens the right to not allow the management to keep their recordings. “This is a serious breach of our privacy right and can never be allowed,” he said.
Nighat Dad, a lawyer and digital rights activist, also spoke about the violation of privacy and said there is a lack of awareness about it. “[There is] no accountability around how companies, telecom, public bodies, ISPs retain, process or share citizens data,” she wrote.
She told SAMAA Digital that these incidents have happened in the past but no one took any action against the cinemas. “Nobody speaks up because there is so much shame attached to it,” she said. The lives of the people in the videos have been ruined, she added, urging the need for a data protection law and privacy commission. “Privacy is a right, not privilege.”
Dad said the long-term solution is a legislation protecting people’s rights. “Awareness sessions should be conducted in schools, colleges and offices to help people know about their rights or who should they reach out to,” she suggested.
On Twitter, Sufi said he intends to file a lawsuit against the establishment of the theatre behind the act. He launched the movement #PrivacyIsARight to safeguard the privacy of Pakistanis with a specific set of demands.
And while privacy laws are imperative, the episode has also sparked a debate about whether people should engage in such behaviour in a public place.”Granted leaking such videos is wrong but what about public indecency? I mean cinema is a pretty public place and to be doing such acts there…should account for something,” tweeted one person.
Citizens-Netizens-Join us as we continue the movement to safeguard our privacy in public places. These are the set of rules we request every public facility to follow. Please share them as widely as possible so no entity records our families unsafely & leaks it. #PrivacyIsARight pic.twitter.com/Pi64LYvfBx
— Salman Sufi (@SalmanSufi7) August 31, 2019
“The cinema management has a lot of responsibility and need to adjust their policies and operating procedures,” Dad remarked.
Signboards in easy language should be placed everywhere inside the cinema with something like “Cameras are watching you” on them, she said. People will then be conscious about how they behave when they know for sure that they are being watched, she added.
She said people need to question the cinema’s policy and ask them how long they will retain their CCTV videos. Packages Mall in Lahore and Cinepax Cinema have agreed to the demands laid out in Sufi’s movement. However, Universal Cinemas and Cine Star have not reached out to them yet.
Cinepax CEO Mariam El Bacha released a statement to show their support for the movement.
The statement said only top management will have access to the CCTV footage, which is heartening because when many people have access to surveillance footage, it is more likely to get leaked.
A similar incident occurred in January when pictures of people in their cars, with their faces and licence plates clearly displayed, circulated on social media. People said the photos were taken via the cameras installed as part of the Lahore Safe City project and also raised privacy concerns.