Canadian Privacy Commissioner to Look Into Transit Cameras


Ontario, Canada’s privacy commissioner is launching an investigation into the installation of thousands of security cameras throughout the country’s largest public transit network following a complaint by an international privacy watchdog that the system would violate the privacy of Toronto commuters.

According to The Canadian Press, London-based Privacy Int’l filed the complaint with the privacy commissioner recently, disputing a claim by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) that the $21 million project would reduce crime levels and terrorism threats, while arguing transit officials have shown “contempt”’ for Canadian privacy law.

The complaint states:

“Privacy Int’l believes that the installation of cameras on the scale proposed by the TTC fundamentally violates privacy law. In the absence of a compelling case for public safety the program is unnecessary and disproportionate. It also appears to be inappropriate and poorly considered used of resources.”

The TTC, which provides 1.4 million rides each weekday, is in the process of installing up to 10,000 security cameras in its buses, streetcars and subway system, adding to its current network of about 1,500 cameras, according to the news service.

The system, which was approved by the TTC last spring and is expected to be operational by June, will be capable of snapping photos and recording video – and in some cases, audio – of any of the TTC’s daily riders. The federal government contributed $6.5 million for the project.

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone has defended the system, saying the information is centrally collected and accessible only to police, and that the cameras are part of larger security plan that involves such measures as increasing the number of transit constables.

“We were the last of the major transit authorities in North America and Europe – who are way ahead – to install a major camera program. So clearly, the consensus out there is that this is a positive,” Giambrone told the news service.

While Giambrone said he personally believes the system will work, he acknowledged the cameras won’t necessarily deter many acts of violence.

“But they are a tool for police, they make people feel safer and their results have been proven over the last year, when we’ve actually been able to use them to make some arrests and some very serious crimes that occurred on the TTC,” he said.

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