As several municipalities in B.C. consider expanding their use of video cameras in public spaces, the Privacy Commissioner is calling for caution in an open letter.
Cities including Richmond, Kelowna and Terrace are at various stages of plans to make additional use of CCTV. Kelowna, for example, has run a pilot project with several cameras and is now considering whether to hire full time staff to monitor them in the long term. City employees claim that they have caught many criminal and safety issues on camera so far.
In his letter, the Commissioner notes that it is unclear that the cameras will provide a safety benefit. He notes that similar projects have not been proven to deter crime in jurisdictions like the United Kingdom. At the same time, the Commissioner writes that the number of places where we enjoy freedom from being watched has declined, and that public spaces are important places for people to be able to act without continuous surveillance. As well, once these kinds of projects go ahead, the loss of privacy can be difficult to reverse.
The Commissioner has raised concerns about whether the municipalities have any legislative authority to set up these systems. His office is currently involved in reviewing these proposals to determine whether they satisfy all of their obligations under B.C. privacy laws.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.