Recently, editor Brittani Schroeder spoke with Daniel Bilodeau, Director of Public Sector Canada at Genetec, to talk about privacy protection, including surveillance, analytics and data collection.
Q: On the topic of privacy protection and the security and surveillance world, what laws do we currently have in place in Canada?
The main thing that we’re learning is that privacy laws surrounding public surveillance don’t exist at a federal level, or at a provincial level. You have to look locally in order to find anything and in a lot of cases they don’t exist yet when it comes to surveillance. Recently we saw the first federally tabled the bill surrounding the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI), and individuals’ privacy in Canada and how our information is used. We also know provincially, in Quebec, they are debating something called Law 64. In a nutshell, when it comes to cameras, look local for your jurisdictions and your bylaws; when it comes to artificial intelligence or data sovereignty, look provincially and federally.
Q: So in surveillance and local jurisdictions, what are you seeing there?
When it comes to security and surveillance, we’re seeing that it’s the local bylaws that govern an idea such as public surveillance. You can look at Vancouver for a great example. In April, Vancouver voted down a motion to install video cameras for the police to use during public events, and the idea behind that was to prevent violent crime. It was voted down eight to one and came with a statement saying that it’s a slippery slope that undermines the protection of an individual’s privacy. Yet, if you jump across Vancouver harbour, just one jurisdiction away to North Vancouver, you see really interesting and proactive steps already taken by the RCMP to enable technology tools such as surveillance.
Melissa Digenova, the counselor who voted “yes” in Vancouver for using cameras, wanted the police to benefit from the efficiency that the tools provide for solving crimes. She pointed out an example where video surveillance caught a suspect at a hardware store during a high profile case. But her seven other colleagues were not convinced that cameras would reduce crime effectively, and they worried about the implications for personal privacy.
Q: What do you believe are some of the things that are going to come to Canadian local bylaws?
Well, it’s conceivable that at least two things will be needed if you wish to have the police use cameras that don’t necessarily belong to them as an analytical tool for dealing with the public. So in that scenario, the number one thing is that you must ask permission, and they’ll have to ask twice. Since the surveillance cameras don’t belong to the requester—the police being the requester—then the permission will likely be needed in a formal MOU (memorandum of understanding), such as the North Vancouver RCMP have done with their public already. They’ll also need to ask permission again at the time of the ‘event’, so a second request will need to be made with some parameters and limitations of use of that camera at the time that you actually need it.
Number two, when it comes to local bylaws, you will likely need a redaction of the suspects face or the object. So we call this “redaction dynamic masking” or “pixelation”. It’s a type of video analytic, and what it achieves is the blurring of the face in the live video and in the recorded video. So the investigator can still follow the action and the event as well, however, at the same time protecting the individual suspect’s identity.
Q: You mentioned North Vancouver is already doing this, but are there any other jurisdictions where you know this is happening now?
I know of some, but I likely don’t even know the half of them yet. Recently, there was a TV news broadcast section highlighting a program that the Edmonton Police Service are developing. I happen to work with the Edmonton Police as well. The news video clip mentioned a few other areas like Red Deer, Alberta also doing this.
As I mentioned before, this is a new and growing concept for us in Canada, but luckily, there are precedents already in other parts of the world that are set up. In fact, the new federal bill that was introduced pointed out something very key: it said there was an intention to align Canadian regulations with international standards. So we don’t want to reinvent the wheel on this.
Q: How significant is this new federal bill that’s being debated?
Bill C27 introduces new rules for AI, and it basically spells out that the protection of personal privacy interests is essential to individual autonomy and dignity, and to the full enjoyment of our fundamental rights and freedoms. It includes a requirement that companies obtain the consent of the individual whose information they are seeking, using plain language, so that the person would reasonably be able to understand what they’re reading before they consent. This new bill is something to follow and watch for, for sure.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. To listen to the full episode, visit blueline.ca/podcast.
This episode of Blue Line, The Podcast was sponsored by Genetec.
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