A recent decision of the British Columbia Privacy Commissioner’s Office provides useful guidance for all strata corporations using or considering the use of video surveillance. In Order P09-02 (Shoal Point Strata Council), certain strata residents had complained to the Commissioner’s Office regarding the use of video surveillance in their strata corporation. In response to the initial complaint, the Strata Corporation adopted a “Policies and Procedures for Video Monitoring”, but the complainants were of the opinion that their privacy rights were not sufficiently addressed by the policies and procedures, given the type of surveillance that was being undertaken. The complainants agreed that video surveillance served a useful security purpose at the building entrances and in the parkade, but felt that the use of video surveillance in the pool area and outside the fitness centres was not warranted. They were also concerned about the use of the footage to determine bylaw infractions, as well as the live-feed from certain cameras to all units in the building.
After carefully reviewing the issues and evidence, the Adjudicator made a number of findings:
- The surveillance cameras at the entrances and in the parkade served the purpose of preventing unauthorized access and also protected the safety and security of residents. However, the Strata Council was required to provide, within 20 days, a description of the location, prominence and wording of the signs notifying individuals of the video surveillance.
- Use of the video surveillance to enforce minor bylaw enforcement was not a reasonable use and contrary to section 14(1) of the Personal Information Protection Act. There was no evidence that the Strata Corporation was using the video footage to enforce serious bylaws and rules involving the security or safety of residents and review of the tapes to catch minor infractions was not warranted.
- The use of the video surveillance in the pool did not address an alleged safety concern and was an unreasonable invasion of the privacy of persons using the pool. Likewise, the use of cameras outside the fitness area was not warranted. The Adjudicator did leave open the possibility that, if there was a reasonable purpose for using the surveillance in the pool and fitness areas in future, it could be considered. However, there would have to be a serious security or safety concern involved.
- Providing live-feeds from the cameras at the entrances to all residents simply did not meet a “reasonable person standard”. The Adjudicator noted that, while the feature might be popular with some residents, there was no evidence as to how such feeds increased the security of the building.
- The Adjudicator also concluded that daily viewing of footage from cameras in the absence of a complaint or evidence of an unauthorized entry, theft or threat to personal safety was not warranted. Thus, the video tapes should be stored for the three weeks that the Strata Corporation was keeping them and only viewed if there was a legitimate reason to do so.
Underlying the Adjudicator’s decision was his concern that any video surveillance be reasonable in the circumstances and balance safety and security issues against privacy rights. Thus, the surveillance had to meet the reasonable person standard. The Adjudicator noted that the Strata Corporation had not passed a bylaw authorizing the collection of personal information under section 12(1)(h) of the Personal Information Protection Act, which allows the collection of personal information authorized by law, and that such a bylaw would preclude the need to obtain explicit or implicit consent of individuals. However, even if a bylaw was adopted, the bylaw would also have to meet the reasonable person standard.
The decision is the first such decision from the Privacy Commission dealing specifically with video surveillance in condominium buildings and should prove to be a useful guide for strata corporations.