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'Smart' Private Eyes in Public Places? Video Surveillance Analytics, New Privacy Threats and Protective Alternatives

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University of Toronto




The 'Smart' Private Eyes in Public Places project examined private sector video surveillance operations with the principal goal of assessing organizations’ personal information practices in relation to PIPEDA compliance in terms of signage, handling of personal information requests and the adoption of video analytic techniques.

Based on intensive fieldwork of video surveillance signage and personal information handling practices in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the researchers concluded that there was:

  • widespread adoption of video surveillance in leading private sector enterprises
  • widespread non-compliance with PIPEDA openness and personal access requirements
  • widespread ignorance of PIPEDA and its application to video surveillance
  • video surveillance is largely handled by the security departments, with little apparent connection with the privacy officials of the enterprise.

Their study of video analytics also led the researchers to conclude:

  • much research and development work is being done in automated video analysis
  • little to no sign of adoption of video analytic techniques so far in the GTA
  • topic of video analytics in retail sector is shrouded in secrecy
  • techniques for face/body detection and coding/blurring demonstrate hold promise for effective anonymization, but further development is needed.

The researchers conclude that there is an urgent need to correct the current imbalance of the “security” approach over the privacy rights of individuals, which prevails in private sector video surveillance operations.

This document is available in the following language(s):

English only

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

Tel: 416-978-3234
Fax: 416-978-5762

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