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    Canadian Privacy Commissioner Seeks Public Comments on Draft Covert Video Surveillance Guidelines

    “The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has prepared a draft guidance document that sets out good practice rules for private sector organizations that are either contemplating or using covert video surveillance,” said Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner, in a press release.

    “Through our experience in investigating complaints about covert video surveillance under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), we have identified a need to educate organizations on the obligation to ensure that covert video surveillance is conducted in the most privacy sensitive way possible. Although the use of covert video surveillance may be appropriate in some circumstances, we view the technology as being inherently intrusive,” Denham said.

    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has previously issued guidelines on video surveillance: Guidelines for Overt Video Surveillance in the Private Sector (in collaboration with Alberta and British Columbia) and Guidelines for surveillance of public places by police and law enforcement authorities.

    In the draft guidelines on covert video surveillance, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said that “the decision to undertake covert surveillance should be made at a very senior level of the organization.” The draft guidance sets out a test to determine whether an organization may use covert video surveillance:

    1. The collection of personal information must only be for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.
    2. There should be substantial evidence to support the suspicion that:
      — the relationship of trust between the organization and an individual has been broken;
      — there has been a breach of an agreement; or,
      — a law has been contravened.
    3. Covert surveillance is a last resort and should only be contemplated if all other less privacy-invasive means of collecting personal information have been exhausted.
    4. The collection of personal information must be limited to the stated purposes to the greatest extent possible.

    The public may submit comments through November 14, 2008. Any questions about the draft guidelines or comments process can be sent via email to: consultation@privcom.gc.ca. Comments on the guidance document may be sent by postal mail to:

    Covert Video Surveillance Consultation
    Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
    112 Kent Street, 3rd Floor
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 1H3

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