Office building tenant reconsiders placement of video surveillance cameras

Early resolved case summary #2015-03

January 21, 2015


Lessons Learned

  • Video surveillance can play an important role in protecting public safety, but we must also remember that it is also highly intrusive, with the ability to collect vast amounts of personal information—much of which may have nothing to do with assuring safety or security.
  • Among other key requirements for the use of video surveillance in a way that respects privacy law, businesses should ensure cameras are set up to collect the minimum amount of information to be effective.
  • The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has developed detailed guidance on the use of video surveillance by private sector organizations, namely, Guidelines for Overt Video Surveillance in the Private Sector and Guidance on Covert Video Surveillance in the Private Sector.

Complaint summary

The complainant, an office building tenant, became concerned when five video surveillance cameras were installed in a shared common area (the hallway and elevator lobby) without his consent or any consultation. As he did not conduct any business with the other tenant (a large company operating a call centre), he found it disturbing—and an invasion of privacy—that the cameras were recording the comings and goings of himself and his clients. The complainant specifically objected to two cameras that recorded all activity between the complainant’s office door and the washrooms, as well as between his office door and the elevators.

The complainant raised his concerns with the office building’s management and requested that those two cameras be removed. Although the building management agreed, the removal was stalled for no apparent reason and communication between the two parties halted. The complainant then demanded removal of all five cameras and complained to our Office.

During the investigation, the company indicated that the five cameras had been installed by the other tenant for safety reasons, i.e., to monitor the entrances to its offices. This followed a security incident where an employee had startled an intruder who had somehow gained entry into the office. The tenant who installed the cameras claimed that the building management had authorized the installation of the cameras as long as the cameras were discreet, and that its own corporate security standards (based on International Organization for Standardization standards and Payment Card Industry security standards) required monitoring access to its office space.

Outcome

After our Office became involved in the matter, the building management reached out to the other tenant, who subsequently relocated the two cameras that the complainant was most concerned about. They were relocated from the shared common area in the hallway to inside the other tenant’s offices.

Once the cameras were relocated, the complainant stated he was satisfied that his privacy rights, and those of his clients, were being respected.

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