Vumacam Johannesburg SafeCity system

Occurred: November 2019

Can you improve this page?
Share your insights with us

Vumacam built an AI-powered Safe City CCTV network with over 5,000 cameras in Johannesburg, South Africa. Video footage is combined with other tools such as license plate recognition to track population movements and trace individuals, using machine learning analytics to identify ‘unusual behaviour’.


An investigation by Vice magazine in 2019 identified biased outcomes, with reports suggesting that what constitutes 'abnormal behaviour detection' appeared to be racially biased. As of 2023, Vumacam is expanding its Safe City initiative to new cities in South Africa.


Civil rights organisations in South Africa have accused Vumacam of violating privacy rights by surveilling citizens without consent and of a lack of transparency over how the company uses the data collected. Organizations such as Right2Know have asserted that Vumacam violates a newly-passed data protection law in South Africa by collecting personal information such as license plate data without consent. Vumacam has stated that it does not have facial recognition technology enabled in its street cameras, nor does it save data in order to profile individuals.

Systems such as Vumacam’s raise concerns over a trend towards surveillance in public spaces that erodes privacy and civil liberties. In South Africa, the installation of these systems without adequate public oversight has also raised transparency concerns.

Operator: Vumacam
Developer: Vumacam
Country: South Africa
Sector: Govt - police; Govt - security
Technology: CCTV; Computer vision; Deep learning; Machine learning; Object recognition
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race; Governance; Human/civil rights; Legal; Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance; Policy

Page info
Type: System
Published: October 2023