Privacy Commissioner Sponsors Camera Surveillance Workshop

That's the title of my Slaw post for today.   It reads as follows:

Surveillance cameras seem to be everywhere these days. They are one of the creeping invasions of privacy that raise difficult issues. Isolated cameras on private homes or businesses controlled by the owner and which retain images for short periods of time are easy to justify on security grounds. On the other hand, massive networks of connected and centrally controlled cameras that track everyone’s every move (the UK for example) and save that information for long periods of time cross the Orwellian threshold.

Some of the questions that don’t appear to have fact based answers include: - Does camera surveillance really improve security and law enforcement? - If so, is the gain worth what we give up in privacy and liberty? - Is this all mere security theatre that wastes valuable resources and breaches privacy with no gain other than a false sense of security? - Can we balance true security needs with ways to minimize privacy effects?

(FWIW – I’m tired of hearing the “If you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to be concerned about line”)

The Federal Privacy Commissioner is sponsoring a research workshop on camera surveillance to take place at Queens University in Jan 2010. Proposals are being requested for papers to be presented at the workshop. Details are here.

The call for papers says in part:

Cameras have been appearing for some years in the streets, shopping malls, airports, train stations, arenas, educational institutions and even convenience stores and taxicabs, yet no one has undertaken a systematic survey of what’s happening in the Canadian context. A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada prepared by SCAN and funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner under the 2008-09 Contributions Program, pulls together existing research and offers some of the history of camera surveillance in Canada, the driving forces behind the trends, the deployment of cameras in specific sites and some of the issues, such as the effectiveness of systems, and privacy and civil liberties questions, raised by this relatively new development.

The report identifies the need for further research in many key areas. The aim of the workshop is to build upon this report by generating fresh, clear, independent findings on camera surveillance in Canada and to have an open and public discussion of issues related to privacy and camera surveillance.

GeneralDavid Canton