One of the most common questions I’m asked about at Curtis-Elite Security is whether it’s legal to install and record video in Canada.
The short answer is yes – it is legal to install and record video. As long as you follow the principles discussed below you should not have difficulty meeting current federal and provincial legal requirements. Some municipalities may have their own laws regarding video surveillance, so it may be wise to check your local regulations. The City of Prince George does not.
If the intention of your video surveillance system is to protect personal and/or business assets and enhance the security of family or employees, then you shouldn’t have a problem complying with current federal and provincial privacy laws. Keep in mind that cameras can never be installed in sensitive areas where there is an absolute ‘expectation of privacy’ such as washrooms, dressing rooms, etc.
There are two completely opposite forces at play when it comes to video surveillance… A) the rapid proliferation and implementation of digital video surveillance technologies everywhere, and B) governments’ drive to create and enact effective privacy laws in this new ‘digital sharing’ age.
Technology has driven down the cost of video surveillance. Surveillance cameras are now much smaller and deliver much higher resolutions. Connecting to and viewing surveillance cameras can be almost instantaneous over mobile devices from anywhere in the world. The public now accepts video surveillance as part of their daily lives and their ‘expectation of privacy’ when they leave their homes is becoming less and less. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere such as the grocery store, bank, mall, parkades, or even the doctor’s office and not be captured on video. Video surveillance is becoming associated with a ‘good thing’ – enhancing personal security and deterring property crimes.
However, the legalities of the use of video surveillance and recorded footage as evidence in court is becoming muddier because of new or changing federal and provincial privacy laws. Governments are continuously writing legislation to help protect the public in this era of shared digital information. In doing so, new arguments are arising as to when and where it is legal to record video footage and how it can be used.
Here is a simple example… You are having problems with vandalism. You decide to install video cameras at your home to video and record your vehicles in the driveway and your shop in the backyard. Your intention is to protect your personal property. However, if you point those same cameras at your neighbour’s house – because you believe the problem could be related to them – it could be argued that you are now breaking the law.
If the intention for your video surveillance system is anything other than the protection of assets and/or to enhance personal security, I’d suggest that you get legal advice in advance of deploying a video surveillance system. If you plan to record sound as well as video you definitely need to get advice first – in most instances it is illegal in Canada to record both sound and video, but there can be exceptions to this.
For a more detailed discussion on the legalities of video surveillance in Canada, please see this online article which has some very useful information.