The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) issued a guidance document outlining the privacy obligations and responsibilities of private sector organizations contemplating and engaging in covert video surveillance.
The OPC notes that it considers covert video surveillance to be an extremely privacy-invasive form of technology, the use of which should only be considered in the most limited cases.
The guidance document notes that capturing images of identifiable individuals through covert video surveillance is considered to be a collection of personal information, irrespective of the fact that it may occur in a public place, and as such, is governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
PIPEDA requires that organizations contemplating the use of covert video surveillance ensure that the collection, use or disclosure of such personal information is limited to purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances. The guidance document notes that what is considered appropriate in the circumstances involves an analysis of several factors, including whether:
- there is a demonstrable, evidentiary need for the collection, beyond mere suspicion
- the personal information collected is clearly related to a legitimate business purpose and objective
- the loss of privacy from the covert video surveillance is proportional to the benefit gained; and
- less privacy-invasive measures were exhausted prior to the implementation of covert video surveillance.