With the proliferation of video cameras in our society, I often hear arguments from people who say we’ve lost our ability to have privacy while in public. I never liked that argument, and it seems that the judges of the Supreme Court don’t like it either.
Thursday, the court released a decision in which they emphasized that people retain certain expectations of privacy even in locales that have extensive video surveillance. The case arose from some pretty disgusting facts: A school teacher was secretly recording the chests of the teenage girls attending the same school. The criminal code makes it an offense to do so but only if the victims had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The accused teacher argued that no one at the school had such an expectation of privacy because it was a public place (he was not recording them in the changing rooms or washrooms) and because the students were otherwise being surveilled through the use of video cameras.
Thankfully, a unanimous court disagreed. The chief justice wrote that privacy is the "concept of freedom from unwanted scrutiny, intrusion or attention." He continued by warning other creeps out there: "The use of a cell phone to capture upskirt images of women on public transit, the use of a drone to take high-resolution photographs of unsuspecting sunbathers at a public swimming pool, and the surreptitious video recording of a woman breastfeeding in a quiet corner of a coffee shop would all raise similar privacy concerns."
Welcome words from our judiciary.
And, speaking of our judiciary, the bench got a little stronger recently by the appointment of Commissioner Donovan Molloy from Newfoundland and Labrador. During his tenure as commissioner, he tackled some pretty significant access and privacy issues for that province, many of which had national implications. His successor will have big shoes to fill.
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