Benefits of CCTV cameras outweigh disadvantages

Kenya CCTV policy does not propose tracking people through facial recognition software

In Summary

• Facial recognition software in China tracks every individual in real-time

• Kenya will only store CCTV data for 30 days to be accessed if necessary

CCTV cameras on a building in Nairobi.Photo/Charles Kimani
CCTV cameras on a building in Nairobi.Photo/Charles Kimani

The concerns of Amnesty International about Kenya's new CCTV policy seem to be largely misplaced.

The new National CCTV Policy requires institutions with public spaces to make certain that they are covered by CCTV.

Amnesty is concerned that this may lead to mass surveillance as in China where facial recognition software tracks everyone. But Kenya will not access live feeds from CCTV as China does.


Buildings will keep footage of their public spaces for 30 days and police will only be able to access these if there is "reasonable suspicion of a criminal offence". Moreover, institutions will have to put up signs informing the public that CCTV is in operation.

Even Amnesty recognises that CCTV is useful for combating crime and terrorism but it wants the new policy postponed until a proper data protection law is in place.

That is premature as there will be no CCTV live streaming and no use of facial recognition software under the new policy. When that day comes, we can re-open the debate. But for the time being, storing CCTV images of public places for 30 days does not present a problem.

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