Privacy commissioner warns of the dangers of video surveillance

The Yukon's privacy commissioner has put out guidelines for government departments considering surveillance cameras.

The Yukon’s privacy commissioner has put out guidelines for government departments considering surveillance cameras.

Diane McLeod-McKay said she prepared the document after receiving multiple requests from departments asking about video surveillance policies they’re developing.

McLeod-McKay isn’t saying which departments have been asking for her help. But she says the privacy implications of video cameras are important to consider even before any equipment is installed.

“Is this benefit to be gained significantly more important than the rights to privacy? I think that all too often video surveillance is being used without that assessment,” she said.

The guidelines warn that just because cameras may be cheaper, that doesn’t mean that they’re always the right choice.

“Cost saving or ease of use is not reason enough to use video surveillance over other forms of surveillance, such as foot patrols,” it says.

“Only after other less privacy-intrusive means of surveillance have been considered and determined unworkable and it has been determined that there is a compelling need to use video surveillance should it be considered as an option.”

Once a public body has decided that video surveillance is the way to go, officials need to prove the collection, use and disclosure of the personal information comply with the Yukon’s Access to Information and Personal Privacy Act.

Technically there is no law in the Yukon against installing surveillance cameras. But the ATIPP Act sets out when government can gather personal information.

Legally, there are only three situations where collection of personal information is allowed.

The first is if legislation clearly and expressly allows the cameras. The second is if the information is being collected “for the purpose of law enforcement.”

Lastly, collecting information is possible if “that information relates to and is necessary for carrying out a program or activity of the public body.”

While the first two options are fairly simple to define, it’s that “necessary” question that could be the focus of an investigation if a Yukoner were to complain about surveillance cameras.

Privacy commissioners across the country have dealt with the issue of when cameras are “necessary,” McLeod-McKay said. Usually if there is a less invasive tool available it’s ruled the cameras didn’t meet that threshold.

“What we’re talking about here is a very privacy-invasive tool to collect personal information,” she said.

So far there haven’t been any investigations by the Yukon’s privacy commissioner that set a precedent for using surveillance cameras in the territory, McLeod-McKay said.

“If people have concerns that their personal information is being collected inappropriately by video surveillance, they can certainly come to my office and make a complaint,” she said.

Currently, the Department of Justice is in the process of installing new cameras in its main building on Second Avenue.

The building actually has two different functions, with the courts one side and the Department of Justice offices on the other.

Staff is in the process of replacing the out-of-date analogue cameras that have been in place since the building opened.

“For the department there are 71 cameras in place with a control room for them in the building,” spokesperson Dan Cable said.

“They have not been fully commissioned yet and we are in the process of completing a privacy impact assessment and doing policy and procedures for them but this is not yet complete.”

As for the side of the building with court, Cable said there are far fewer cameras there, since courtrooms and judges’ chambers take up most of the space.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read