The Kenyan government has adopted closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to tackle the rising cases of insecurity in the streets, said Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication.
Kenya Data Networks has set up cameras in locations covered by the company's terrestrial fiber-optic network, said Vincent Wang'ombe, marketing manager at KDN. The images are relayed back to KDN controllers at the offices on the Mombasa road, then to the police headquarters, he explained.
There are 12 cameras in Nairobi and two in Mombasa, and additional cameras will soon be deployed, Wang'ombe said. The cameras are mainly for traffic monitoring and security but can also be deployed in homes for monitoring, he said.
"The footage supplied to the police can even tell what model of watch one is wearing, but the other [footage is] not very clear; you cannot identify a person or a vehicle registration," Wang'ombe said.
Privacy issues do not arise at this stage, as general security must take precedence, said Ndemo, adding that privacy is only guaranteed in people's homes.
"Privacy is a concern of large and complex societies. At the moment in Kenya, we need safety, as long as the information remains protected by the police the way a doctor protects patient information," said Athar Ahmad Bhatti, CEO of Probiz Solutions
Ndemo argues that the government wants to emulate the U.K., which has 10,524 CCTV cameras in London used to detect and fight crime.
"In Western societies, they tap phones, place bugs in houses under the guise of national security," Bhatti said. "For them, privacy is perceived, not real."
James Maina, a taxi driver along Moi Avenue, where some of the cameras are, agreed that Kenyans should not be worried about privacy issues and further noted that the police need education on how to use the technology.