About 12 or 13 years ago, there was an interesting case where then Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski tried to challenge the RCMP’s decision to install video cameras in public places in the city of Kelowna.
Radwanski was quite upset with this decision and tried to start a court case where he hoped the court would evaluate whether the government in Canada was legally able to install and monitor people’s activity while in public. Mostly, the case was about whether our Charter protected Canadians from government-wide surveillance.
The problem was that this went beyond what the privacy commissioner was supposed to be doing under the Privacy Act or PIPEDA. Ultimately, the case was shut down before any judge evaluated the merits of where, when, and why a government can use video cameras in public.
What emerged from that case (apart from a pretty ticked off Commissioner Radwanski) was a series of guidelines from that office about the proper use of video cameras.
At first, the guidance tackled just the public sector, but they have since updated it to reflect the use of surveillance in the private sector. The guidelines are good. Reading the news story below about the prolific use of video cameras in Nova Scotia made me think there are too many people out there who don’t know the storied history we have in Canada about using video to surveil everyone — and they obviously don’t know about the commissioner’s guidance on the subject.
Kudos to Commissioner Tully in that province for trying to raise awareness of the issue.
It makes me wonder: If that original case brought by Radwanski had gone differently, would we have better structure in our country regarding the legality of installing cameras that surveil us constantly?
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