On March 6, 2008, the Privacy Commissioners of Canada, Alberta
and British Columbia released Guidelines for Overt Video
Surveillance in the Private Sector. Each of the Privacy
Commissioners assert that since their private sector privacy
legislation governs the collection, use and disclosure of
information about an identifiable individual, surveillance through
a video camera is clearly subject to that legislation.
Of particular importance is the guidance to use the least
privacy-invasive means, to control operator use, to notify the
public and to respond to requests regarding the footage.
In planning for, using and retaining video surveillance, the
guidelines recommend that organizations take the following 10
Determine whether less privacy-invasive alternatives meet your
needs. For example, an area can be protected by physical security
Establish the business purposes for conducting video
surveillance and use it only for those purposes. If there is no
legitimate business reason to use it, you should not. If the
purpose is to protect property, it should not be used to track
individuals in the frame who do not pose a risk to the
Develop a policy on the use of video surveillance. The policy
should include: specifications of the system (locations of systems
and camera, special capabilities, times of use, whether and when to
record, how records are managed, disposal procedures, etc.),
procedures to respond to breaches in the policy, sanctions for
employees and contractors who breach the policy and the name of the
individual or officer accountable for privacy compliance and
responding to inquiries.
Limit the use and viewing range of surveillance equipment as
much as possible. Time limited operation is preferable to
continuous operation, cameras should be focused for the business
purpose and not on individuals not targeted, cameras should not be
aimed at areas where people have a heightened expectation of
privacy (with steps taken to prevent possible repositioning by
operators in violation of this obligation) and sound should not be
recorded without a specific need (and any recording of sound must
comply with the Criminal Code).
Inform the public that video surveillance is taking place.
Clear notice that video surveillance is occurring must be given
before an individual enters the frame.
Store any records created by video surveillance in a secure,
limited-access location and destroy them when they no longer serve
a business purpose. The destruction should be complete. In the case
of cameras which are monitored, images should not be recorded
unless unlawful activity is suspected or observed.
Be prepared to respond to public inquiries regarding video
surveillance records as you should to any inquiry regarding
personal information you collect, use or disclose. Individuals are
entitled to know who is collecting the information, for what
purpose and what information is being collected.
Give individuals access to records concerning them. Responses
to one individual's request to see his/her images should be
masked to obscure other individuals. Disclosures to third parties
must be justified and documented
Educate camera operators on their privacy obligations to
Periodically evaluate the need for continued video
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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