Commissioner Releases Investigation Report Concerning Surveillance Cameras on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton

August 7, 2003

Information and Privacy Commissioner Frank Work has released an investigation report into the matter of whether the Edmonton Police Service (“EPS”) has the authority under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “FOIP Act”) to collect personal information by way of video surveillance cameras on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.

On May 22, 2003, EPS submitted to the Commissioner’s Office a privacy impact assessment (“PIA”) concerning a pilot project to conduct video surveillance of the Whyte Avenue corridor during the Canada Day Long Weekend (June 27-July 2, 2003) and the “Fringe” festival (August 13-25, 2003). In the PIA, EPS evaluated the project to ensure compliance with the FOIP Act.

The Commissioner agreed that, as long as EPS collected personal information for the purposes of law enforcement as set out in the PIA, EPS had the authority under the FOIP Act to collect personal information via video surveillance cameras in the particular circumstances pertaining to Whyte Avenue.

In a postscript to the investigation report, the Commissioner expressed concern about the general use of surveillance cameras in public places. He said that surveillance cameras in public places are an extraordinary measure for our society and should only be used where the need for and the effectiveness of the cameras are clear. Surveillance cameras and general public surveillance must not be seen as the common solution to every crime or security problem.