Canada: Québec Commission d'accès à l'information releases guidance on video surveillance

In February 2019, the Québec Commission d'accès à l'information ("CAI") released an updated guide on video surveillance titled, La Vidéosurveillance: Conseils pratiques à l'intention des organismes publics et des entreprises (the "Guide"). The CAI is the Québec government agency responsible for access to information and privacy matters for both the public and private sector. The CAI also has the power to conduct inquiries and render decision on privacy matters. The new Guide provides a list of best privacy practices aimed at businesses and public organizations that use video surveillance.

The Guide's recommendations are significant for any business or organization that uses or is contemplating the use of any camera technology that captures personal images. Further, the privacy considerations in the Guide are not limited to surveillance cameras, as they also extend to drones and any other devices with image-capture capabilities.

Evaluate the need for video surveillance

The Guide places a strong emphasis on the need to evaluate and justify the use of video surveillance technology. The Guide further stresses that it is imperative for a business or organization who wishes to use image-capture technology to be able to demonstrate a legitimate, important, urgent and real objective and that the use of such technology is a proportional means to achieve such objective.

In order to use image-capture technology, the business or organization should conduct the following three-step analysis:

  1. What is the objective achieved through a video surveillance system?
  2. Is this objective legitimate, important, urgent and real?
  3. If so, is the invasion of privacy that results from the image-capture a proportional means of achieving this objective?

The business or organization must be able to answer the foregoing questions positively in order to use image-capture technology in a manner that conforms with privacy legislation. The Guide further suggests conducting a "privacy impact assessment" (available online at www.cai.gouv.qc.ca) to determine how to minimize the negative impact on privacy.

Best practices for conforming with privacy laws

Once the business or organisation has determined that the use of an image-capture technology is legitimate and proportional, it must ensure that the way it is used is in line with its privacy obligations. The Guide provides nine key recommendations to better assist the business or organization with achieving this goal:

  1. Adopt a video surveillance policy and designate a person who will be responsible for the use of video surveillance technology;
  2. Inform the public or those targeted of the presence of cameras;
  3. Limit the scope of video surveillance;
  4. Ensure that the images collected are secured;
  5. Limit the access and use of the images collected to those that are required to achieve the stated objective;
  6. Destroy the images in a secure manner once they are no longer needed to achieve the stated objective;
  7. Anticipate providing access to those targeted by the surveillance;
  8. For public organizations subject to the Règlement sur la diffusion, consult the relevant access to information and privacy committee; and
  9. Periodically revaluate the policy and the use of video surveillance.

Finally, the CAI has already made several decisions on the use of video surveillance, which can be found at: http://www.cai.gouv.qc.ca/decisions-et-avis/section-surveillance/decisions-en-surveillance/.

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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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