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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Alberta Commissioner upholds cameras in locker rooms at health club 

This is likely to spur some interesting discussion:


A complaint was made against the Organization which operates the “Talisman Centre for Sport and Wellness”. The Complainant stated that the Organization had placed overt security cameras in the Talisman Centre’s men’s locker rooms. The Complainant was concerned about a loss of privacy and that patrons of the Centre would be unable to change without being viewed by the cameras. The Organization stated that the security cameras were installed in 1997 in response to over 900 incidents of theft and property damage during the years 1994-97. The security cameras were installed after all other means to prevent criminal activity had failed. The cameras’ field of vision was restricted to the lockers and had no zoom, panoramic or audio capabilities. The cameras were not actively monitored and a protocol was in place which restricted the viewing of images to instances where there was an incident or reported criminal activity with a case number assigned by the Calgary Police Service. Viewing of the images occurs only in the presence of two senior staff members or by one such member and a police constable. If images are not reviewed they are automatically overwritten in approximately 21 days. After installation of the cameras there was a sharp reduction in criminal activity. As of the date of the Organization’s submission to the Commissioner only 19 images had ever been viewed. The Commissioner found that due to the history of theft, the attempt to use other measures prior to using security cameras as a last resort, and the fact that the images recorded were only accessed in the event of a criminal incident, that the Organization’s collection of personal information was for purposes that were reasonable, as required by section 11(1) of the Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”). However, the Organization’s signage was not in compliance with section 13(1) of PIPA. The Commissioner ordered the Organization to change the signage.

Click to view more information Order P2006-008

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3/22/2007 03:29:00 PM  :: (2 comments)  ::  Backlinks
While the idea of cameras in a changeroom is inherently creepy, I have to admit to being impressed by Talisman's justification and approach. It seems that they took a textbook privacy-sensitive approach once they determined that the cameras were indeed necessary.
A most worrying thing is that a great many years after the problem was identified and reportedly dealt with the cameras have remained, and the original justification is seen as validation for the cameras today.
After the addition of the cameras, time and circumstance do not appear to have changed anything affecting the necessity for the cameras in the view of those protecting property at the site or those looking at public privacy protections.

Thinking around that line...
Does anyone know if legal notices denying responsibility for any personal property secured in a locker exist(ed) at the site?
Could those types of notice retain any legal validity in view of the cameras?
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