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Privacy Concerns with Video Surveillance

May 25, 2021 - Danielle Serson, Intake Officer

Our office quite often receives inquiries regarding the potential privacy implications associated with installing and operating video surveillance within an organization. As our office is an oversight body for The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP), and The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA), we are unable to provide a formal opinion on whether any of the organization’s proposed or existing video surveillance practices would comply or not with the privacy provisions of the legislation, as doing so would constitute an advanced ruling. We must remain neutral and impartial until such time that we are asked to review a decision regarding access to information, or investigate an alleged breach of privacy.

With that being said, we are able to provide you with additional information and resources in order to assist you with making the decision on whether or not to proceed with conducting video surveillance within your organization!

Our office has Video Surveillance Guidelines for Public Bodies which is a very helpful resource to refer to when considering the adoption of video surveillance practices. This includes different factors for public bodies to consider before implementing video surveillance and information to help determine if adequate safeguards are in place for the protection of the personal information or personal health information captured by the video surveillance.

The personal information or personal health information captured on the video surveillance would be in the possession or control of your organization, so it would be your responsibility to ensure that the privacy of the individuals captured in the surveillance is protected.

Part IV of FOIP and LA FOIP speak to the protection of privacy for personal information that would be under the government institution/ local authority’s possession and control. Section 24.1 of FOIP and 23. 1 of LA FOIP speak specifically to the creation of policies and procedures to maintain administrative, technical and physical safeguards. Section 16 of HIPA speaks to the duty of the trustee to protect personal health information and specifically requires the creation of policies and procedures to maintain administrative, technical and physical safeguards.

If your organization is not subject to the legislation this office oversees (FOIP, LA FOIP, HIPA), it is recommended that you should continue to assess potential risks and/or legal ramifications associated with implementing video surveillance. It would be the responsibility of your organization to protect the privacy of the information in your possession or control that is captured by video surveillance, and following best practices can be useful in minimizing potential risks.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) which applies to private sector organizations engaged in commercial activities, as well as some trustees who are also captured under HIPA. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has additional information on video surveillance that may be helpful and can be found here.

Although there is no legislative requirement to complete one, whether you are under our jurisdiction or not, our office recommends conducting a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) whenever a new policy, procedure or program that has privacy implications is being developed or revamped. This blog outlines the benefits of completing a privacy impact assessment: Privacy Impact Assessments.

We also have a Guidance Document for a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) that contains information that may assist you in determining whether to complete a PIA. If you decide to move forward with a PIA, we have documents for PIA Steps 1-4 that can be completed. These can be found in the Resource Directory on our website under the following names:

PIA Step 1 Preliminary Analysis

PIA Step 2 Define The Project

PIA Step 3 Privacy Analysis

PIA Step 4 PIA Report

Additionally, if you choose to complete a PIA and your organization is under our jurisdiction, you may also be interested in engaging our office in the consultation process. You can read more about the consultation process in this blog post: Consulting With the IPC.

Although we cannot provide you with a formal opinion regarding implementing video surveillance within your organization, I hope this information will be helpful in making your decision!

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