With Great Surveillance Comes Great Responsibilty - For Others' Privacy
More and more people are turning to video surveillance systems to protect their assets and deter criminal activity. They’re convenient. They’re simple to use. And there’s no crime in monitoring valuables and property with them. Or is there?
A potential crime could be committed if the surveillance system ends up invading someone’s privacy. But don’t worry, you can do something simple to avoid this.
No matter how advanced the system or who might be captured on screen, privacy and the collection of personal information should be considered and properly addressed by individuals or companies before they start operating their video surveillance cameras. For instance, in a February 6, 2015, news article posted by CBC News, a family in Vancouver discovered that their neighbor’s surveillance system was monitoring their backyard without them knowing about it.
In this case, the neighbour’s intentions were not voyeuristic or criminal (thankfully), but regardless the matriarch of the family brought up the point that, “If a homeowner is going to install security cameras trained on a neighbour's home, they should at least let them know.” This knowledge puts the control back in the family’s hands, so they can decide how they want to deal with this situation (e.g., how much of their privacy they want to “give up”).
In an online CBC article by Maureen Brosnahan posted December 28, 2012, she talks about a study done by a professor of information studies at the University of Toronto in which two major retailers were revealed operating surveillance systems without the public’s knowledge. Her article highlights the fact that “only about 30 per cent [of the video cameras set up in the two Toronto-area malls] had any kind of sign alerting people to their use and none met even the minimum standards required under the law.”
The law is then explained as follows: “stores are required to post signs outside their entrances that alert customers to the use of video surveillance, its purpose, and a contact number so people can find out how they can obtain a copy of any footage that contains their image.”
People can’t protect their privacy and personal selves from being captured on record if they don’t know about it. This should make our “spidey” senses tingle and our alarms go off. In the case of the Toronto retailers, the lack of signage (and adherence to standards) puts their customers’ rights at risk and the retailers at risk for a lawsuit. The first example shows how video surveillance operators can avoid stepping on someone else’s rights and protect themselves and other people’s privacy by putting up a visible sign and following regulations. The benefit of avoiding a lawsuit outweighs the work of creating signage.
The laws and regulations already in place help provide guidance and boundaries. For example, on page 4 of the Government of Alberta’s Guide to Using Surveillance Cameras In Public Areas, it states that “Recording equipment should not be positioned, internally or externally, to monitor areas outside a building, or to monitor other buildings…” and “…cameras should not be directed to look through the windows of adjacent buildings.”
The guide also reiterates the importance of communication through signage: “The public should be notified, using clearly written signs prominently displayed at the perimeter of surveillance areas, of surveillance equipment locations, so the public has ample warning that surveillance is or may be in operation before entering any area under surveillance.” Signage truly is key and posting it with your video system will help you avoid trouble.
At SafewithUlli, we work with clients to identify, customize, and install video surveillance systems that meet required regulations. Find out how we secure homes, businesses, and your privacy by contacting us at 780-288-2986.