Surveillance cameras are a great way to help protect your property or workplace, but they can cause you to infringe upon government regulations. There are actually a number of video surveillance laws in Ontario. Get safe advice from the security professionals at Jay360 to help you make government-compliant security choices. This page provides an easy-to-read summary of general, residential, workplace, and public surveillance laws.
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Video Surveillance Laws Ontario: The General Laws
Why Is It Important To Know The Laws On Surveillance?
Knowing the laws on surveillance can help you make the right security investments, reduce confrontation with others in the community, and keep you informed about your privacy rights. In some jurisdictions, residents may be installing video surveillance for naught as it is illegal for residents to use video recording devices. The main reason to know the laws is to avoid conflicts with neighbours. Although there have been few prosecutions due to neighbour conflicts surrounding video surveillance, knowing the facts can help you proactively address any questions your neighbours may have. Court litigations can be costly and though some jurisdictions make it less apparent what is proper and improper use, having thorough background information will surely help a property owner looking to increase their security profile. Collecting personal video or audio of another person without express consent is prohibited.
Download the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario PDF on surveillance here.
The Laws In The Workplace
Why Is It Important To Know The Laws On Surveillance?
Knowing the laws on surveillance can help you make the right security investments, reduce the risk of harming your public image, and also educate businesses on their employees’ privacy rights. Because of the competitive business landscape, knowing what is valid surveillance can also help you manage your business security. The main reason to know the laws is to avoid conflicts with employees and vendors which could detract from doing business. Collecting personal video or audio of another person without expressed consent is a violation of PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronics Document Act) and can lead to regulatory inquiries and lawsuits with stakeholders.
What Does the Government Say About Surveillance Camera Laws?
Canadian lawmakers will continue to debate and alter policies to meet the needs of residents, but here is what we know so far about the law today along with due diligence tests to help position your company if an inquiry does arise:
- Can I use a camera to monitor employee performance/conduct? – No. This is a violation of employee privacy. A camera can only be installed to help identify the source of criminal activity (source). This also rules out the temptation to monitor employees outside of work, including gathering and distributing such footage or information.
Due diligence test: If uncertain, explore the concept with your team and an unbiased third-party to increase your due diligence profile.
- What is the proper use of security surveillance? – The privacy commissions office shares that the monitoring of critical assets or high-crime areas is permissible and part of reasonable use (source).
Due diligence test: Ensure your company can demonstrate other options were evaluated and can articulate why surveillance was chosen instead of other less invasive measures.
- What is the permitted use of surveillance video/audio information? – Recorded media must not be used to track the movement of employees; it is to be used for security purposes rather than monitoring individual employees (source).
Due diligence test: If company items go missing, get the consent of employees before reviewing footage of specific employees (source).
- How do I minimize the stakeholders affected? – If a storefront is using surveillance it is recommended that pedestrians passing by the store should not be recorded (source).
Due diligence test: Consider the objective of the monitoring solution and whether the lowest number of individuals are being monitored to fulfill that purpose.
Must-Ask Questions Before Installing Surveillance
Thinking through the implications of adding surveillance technology to your workplace will help in the long-run for planning and value. Here is a listing of questions you should ask and prepare to answer prior to using surveillance or imaging applications.
- What if footage has been acquired of criminal activity in a private area?
– Privacy can actually sometimes trump this kind of evidence, and it can be dismissed from court given that an employee felt privacy was assured (source).
- Does your company work with a union? – Understand the collective agreement in place and whether there are provisions for security monitoring.
- Considering surveillance of outdoor property?
– Organizations are required to post signs when monitoring public or adjacent spaces (source).
- Have you created a policy for managing video surveillance?
– Determine what are the procedures whereby you create, modify, archive, and dispose of footage. Communicate this policy to employees so they are aware (source).
- Are you ready to answer questions from the public?
– So you’ve decided to monitor, but there may be inquiries from your customers who visit your office or privacy guardians who may want to know about your policy and plans. Turn inquiry into opportunity by being prepared and illustrating your extensive analysis.
Find out more about cameras in the workplace here. Read more on Government regulations for video cameras in the private sector here.
The Laws For Residential
What Does The Government Say About Surveillance Camera Laws?
Technology evolves very quickly, often outstripping the regulatory authorities and governance groups tackling the ramifications of changes. Canadian lawmakers will continue to debate and alter policies to meet the needs of residents, but here is what we know so far about the law today.
- Cameras are to be pointed at owner’s property – certain bylaws like the one in Hamilton, Ontario, specify this requirement for the sake of neighbours’ privacy (source).
- London prohibits the use of surveillance cameras – the city of London, Ontario, does not allow for the use of excessive enforcement like video cameras (source).
- Guidelines for surveillance cameras in the private sector – the Canadian guidelines for surveillance cameras (source).
The Laws For Public Places
Consider Doing These Things To Ensure Everyone’s Privacy Is Protected
In a shared community environment, the privacy of all residents should be considered as part of a security system installation. The following are some quick tips on how to deploy your surveillance system in your community with the right engagement while minimizing complaints!
- Think community safety – starting a discussion on community safety may help create consensus on video monitoring. A system is better than a silo, meaning if your neighbours also want to help by using their own systems this can offer better coverage than one home’s video cameras could provide.
- Ensure comfort with surrounding neighbours – having an honest conversation with your neighbours can help you discuss their comfort level with you adding a security camera to your property. You may even gain an extra pair of eyes to help you watch your property!
- Using dummy security cameras – one way residents are staying on the right side of the law is by using dummy cameras. Though this is not recommended by the team, clients are given all the options to make an informed decision.
- Demonstrate no harm intent – document your installation and practices to provide city officials evidence that you weren’t out to infringe on people’s properties. This can include logs, periodic checks that camera positioning is away from other properties, and consultations with neighbours.
- Offer footage to neighbours – some criminal perpetrators may use adjacent properties to enter a victim’s residence. Offer up this footage to try and help your neighbours so that they know you have a vested interest in the community and their well-being.
- Addressing your privacy concerns – if you feel a neighbour may be infringing on your home privacy, be sure to discuss with the owner of the video camera, as this may be a quicker resolution than filing a complaint with your city.
- Contact your local city or bylaw advisors – ensure you are on the right side of the law, this shows care and due diligence on your part. Check for contact information in general inquiries and complaint filing sections.
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