The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has released guidelines pertaining to overt video surveillance to assist businesses subject to the BC Personal Information Protection Act.
The guidelines set out ‘best practices’ for evaluating the use of overt video surveillance of the public by private sector organizations. They do not apply to the surveillance of employees or to covert surveillance situations.
The guidelines suggest private sector organizations when considering, planning or using surveillance:
Determine whether a less privacy-invasive alternative to video surveillance would meet its needs.
Establish the business reason for conducting video surveillance and use video surveillance only for that reason.
Develop a policy on the use of video surveillance.
Limit the use and viewing range of cameras as much as possible.
Inform the public that video surveillance is taking place.
Store any recorded images in a secure location, with limited access, and destroy them when they are no longer required for business purposes.
Be ready to answer questions from the public. Individuals have the right to know who is watching them and why, what information is being captured, and what is being done with recorded images.
Give individuals access to information about themselves. This includes video images.
Educate camera operators on the obligation to protect the privacy of individuals.
Periodically evaluate the need for video surveillance.
As an interpretive tool, the guidelines apply across Canada notwithstanding differences in privacy statutes, as they were developed jointly by the federal privacy commissioner and the privacy commissioners in B.C. and Alberta. Demonstrating compliance with the guidelines may assist businesses in the event of a privacy complaint under the Personal Information Protection Act.