The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.
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.
For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.
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.
This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I was interviewed about this on a Montreal radio station on Friday. It's an interesting issue, because information is not being collected:
Toilet cam working even when it doesn't
Toilet cam working even when it doesn't
Mall customer outraged but landlord says dummy is effective
MICHELLE LALONDE, The Gazette
Published: Friday, August 03
Yes, that's a real surveillance camera on the ceiling of the men's washroom off the food court of Les Cours Mont Royal - but don't worry, it's not operating.
That reassurance was not good enough for at least one Montreal businessman who was outraged to see a video camera in a public bathroom at the downtown Montreal mall.
The camera is inside a protective dome and appears to be pointed toward the washroom's common area, where the urinals are. As of yesterday, there were no signs explaining what the camera is for or whether it is on.
When the man asked a maintenance person about the camera, he was told it wasn't actually functioning but was there to discourage certain activities.
"If the video surveillance is not functional, what assurances do we have that it will not be in the future?"the man wrote in a complaint to mall owners Soltron Realty Inc., which he forwarded to The Gazette on the condition his name not be published.
"If it is functional," the letter continued, "who is watching, is the information secure and will we find our pictures on the Internet? ... I find the use of surveillance camera (real or fake) inside a washroom to be absolutely unethical, immoral and most likely illegal." Unless the camera is removed within 10 days, the man said, he will lodge a complaint with Quebec's privacy commission.
A spokesperson for Soltron said the camera was installed in the washroom several years ago to discourage "sexual misconduct and drug use." Carmela Amorosa, marketing director for Soltron, said the company realized it was illegal to place an operating camera in a public bathroom, but felt some action was necessary.
"It is working," Amorosa said. "Now we don't have these problems. We are doing this to protect our customers from this sort of behaviour in the bathroom." But the case raises questions about the right to privacy and video surveillance, said sources in Quebec's Justice Department, as well as federal and provincial agencies that safeguard privacy.
"People are right to be concerned about being monitored," said Colin McKay, of the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
"The case is interesting because they are not technically collecting information, they are just giving that impression. But perception for a lot of people is a legitimate concern. If they are doing it as a deterrent, they should make that clear." Luc Fortin, an aide to Benot Pelletier, the cabinet minister responsible for Quebec's privacy commission, said it is unclear whether a complaint about camera surveillance in a public washroom would be heard by the Privacy Commission or the Human Rights Commission.
"If it is a question of voyeurism, that would clearly be a case for the Human Rights Commission, but if the camera is being used to gather information and set up a file about a specific person, it would be something we would deal with," Fortin said.
"It's not technically illegal" to install video cameras in public bathrooms, "but companies that do it certainly risk complaints," said Robert Sylvestre of the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Several court cases have resulted in jurisprudence and a set of principles about video surveillance in public places, he said.
"One of those principles is that the operator of the camera should be able to show that other methods have been tried and failed before they resorted to this."
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