Kelowna’s use of surveillance cameras to be scrutinized

“Public spaces are among the few remaining places where we still have privacy,”

The B.C. privacy commissioner has turned its attention to Kelowna for its use of surveillance cameras.

Drew McArthur, acting Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C., wrote an open letter saying recent efforts in Terrace, Richmond and Kelowna to apply more camera surveillance in public places are an invasion of privacy and it’s unclear yet whether the efforts are lawful.

“These proposals all assume that video surveillance prevents crime and justifies the persistent invasion of the privacy of law-abiding people who are just going about their day-to-day business,” said McArthur.

“My office is working with those municipalities to determine whether any of these proposals are lawful, which remains to be seen.


“A key question we will ask is whether a less privacy-invasive option was attempted.”

In December the city approved $30,000 of funding per year, for the next three years, to keep eyes on CCTV cameras that already have their lenses panned to areas like the parkades, Queensway Transit Exchange, City Hall, as well as the Stuart Park and Kasugai Garden public washrooms during operational hours, said Lance Kayfish, the city’s risk manager.

Funding followed a summer-long pilot program that had cameras monitored 24 hours a day, seven days per week and amounted to 425 coordinated responses to emergent situations involving criminal activity, mischief, loitering and vandalism.

What’s more, Kayfish said that it’s not only being used to deter crime and vandalism, it also was effective in medical emergencies, such as overdoses.

“We believe we’re being lawful,” said Kayfish. “In the Privacy Commissioner’s own guideline it says that surveillance systems used in conjunction with suspicious incidents are more effective and appropriate than un-monitored systems.”

While the city sees the value, the privacy commissioner clearly doesn’t share that view.

“At first blush it’s an easy way to appear to address public safety issues, rather than take on the more difficult challenge of the social ills from which crime arises, said McArthur.

“But what Richmond, Terrace, and Kelowna are ignoring is that for all its monetary and privacy costs, there is little evidence that surveillance works.”

In 2001, then privacy commissioner David Loukidelis reported that pervasive use of video surveillance had little or no effect on reducing crime and McArthur said nothing has changed since then.

“We must learn from the experience in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, where over six million cameras (one for every ten people) have not significantly reduced crime in urban centres,” he said.

“Cameras are particularly poor at deterring violent crime, as those acts occur spontaneously and the perpetrators are not concerned with getting caught, on video or otherwise. Every blurry image we see on the news of a crime being committed was a crime that was not prevented by video surveillance.

“While the benefits of video surveillance are hypothetical, the harm it presents to the privacy of British Columbians is real, and will only be amplified by increasingly sophisticated facial recognition technology and big data analyses identifying and following us from camera to camera.”

He makes the point that most of our life is surveilled with our online entrenchment and physical spaces are among the scarce untraceable places left for us to be and to express ourselves.

“It is ironic that public spaces are among the few remaining places where we still have privacy,” he said. “If we surrender our public spaces to surveillance–where we all have the right to be–we may never get them back.”

Those who are concerned with video surveillance are asked to make a call to the privacy commissioner.

To report a typo, email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UBC Okanagan nursing students host gala fundraising event

Medical clinics in Ghana and Zambia will benefit from the gala

UBC Okanagan welcomes alumni and the community to campus event

Homecoming is a chance to rediscover and reconnect with the campus

Kelowna still waiting for first legal pot shop application

Despite anticipating ‘hundreds’ of applications, the city has yet to receive one

Kelowna RCMP look for alleged theft suspect

The alleged theft of a wallet was committed inside a Kelowna business

RCMP look to reunite cash with owner

The owner accidentally donated the money to the Salvation Army in a piece of clothing

Sunny skies for the week ahead

Environment Canada is forecasting clear skies for the Okanagan and Shuswap

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

South Okanagan man alleged to have exposed genitals to children

Penticton RCMP said incident occurred at the Kiwanis Park

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

Most Read