Patricia Kosseim, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, issued the following statement in response to the Ontario government’s announcement of a $2 million investment to expand the coverage of closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems across the province.

“CCTV camera systems may be effective in helping deter or detect crime, and potentially provide evidence for use in criminal investigations. However, video surveillance footage can, and often does, capture the personal information of law-abiding citizens going about their everyday lives and can create a chilling effect on freedoms and liberties when taken too far.

I strongly encourage any police service or municipality considering the implementation or enhancement of CCTV camera systems to consult with my office to ensure appropriate policies, procedures, and training are in place to safeguard the personal information they collect.

Ontario’s privacy laws do not require police services or municipalities to ask their citizens for permission to install or use coverage of CCTV camera systems. However, institutions are required to comply with Ontario’s privacy laws  regarding the collection, retention, use, and disclosure of personal information, including fundamental data minimization principles. The IPC encourages any organization considering the use of surveillance programs or technologies to conduct a privacy impact assessment and to consult with my office to help ensure their compliance with privacy requirements and best practices.

Our guidance document, Guidelines for the Use of Video Surveillance, explains the key obligations institutions have under Ontario’s privacy laws with respect to the use of video surveillance. The guidance also provides a list of best practices which, if implemented, will assist institutions in fulfilling their obligations under the acts and in protecting the privacy of individuals. Our webinar, The Do’s and Don’ts of Video Surveillance, outlines how public organizations can put in place a video surveillance program that respects and protects individual privacy.

We have also issued a number of reports after investigations of specific institutions and their video surveillance programs, which are available on our website.

Next-Generation Law Enforcement is one of four strategic priorities that my office has selected to focus its efforts now and into the future. Our goal is to contribute to building public trust in law enforcement by working with relevant partners to develop the necessary guardrails for the adoption of new technologies that protect both public safety and Ontarians’ access and privacy rights. We encourage  police services considering implementing or enhancing their use of CCTV camera systems to consult with our office and with other community partners so that, together, we can reach this goal.”

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