613-908-8888 1-888-299-8903

Ottawa Location Toronto Location

  • Posted By Scott
  • |
  • Aug 18, 2017

Condominium Security - Privacy and the use of security cameras

One of the many questions that we get asked during our security presentations or audits is about security vs. privacy concerns, especially how it relates to security cameras. We have to qualify the following article with the statement that we are not lawyers and are not in the position to provide legal advice in this (or any other) matter - we will leave that to our smarter, lawyer friends who are so generous with their likes, shares and re-tweets. Rather, the following is a summary of the best practices that we have seen or researched in the security industry. The 3D Security Services Audit report contains an appendix with suggested inclusions to the condominium privacy policy, as it relates to the security equipment.

For the most part, a condominium is guided by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) which provides the guidance for collecting, using and the disclosure of personal information. This act makes a condominium responsible for the information it collects, including that collected in the process of securing the facility. PIPEDA mandates that the information that is collected must be necessary to the operation of the facility and it is not to be disclosed without consent or unless required by statute – the prime example being the Condominium Act.

Condominiums usually utilize overt cameras, as opposed to covert (hidden) ones. If a condominium elects to install covert cameras within the facility, there could be an additional obligation to disclose the presence (or even the location) of the cameras to the residents. It is usually highly recommended /required that condominiums install signage to advise of the location of cameras, even if they are overt. In addition to protecting the condominium, the presence of the signage may act as a deterrent for unwanted intrusions. The reason for the liability is that these cameras may record personal information of the residents (appearance and vehicle information) as well as actions such as comings and goings and with whom they may associate.

Obviously, cameras should not be installed in any area where a resident would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as changerooms or washrooms. Many condominiums struggle with the presence of cameras in either a public pool or fitness area. These areas are considered common element and, as such, the expectation of privacy is not present. However, due to the nature of activities and clothing worn in these areas, some board members feel that these areas should not be under surveillance. The condominium security cameras should be located in such a manner that they do not record activities outside the condominium’s property line. Special care must be taken so that they do not record actions of any adjacent properties or homes. This is very important with PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras whose view can be modified from the control room, usually using a joystick.

Recent news reports out of Surrey, BC have raised the issue where a Strata levied $40,000.00 in fines due to breaches of the facility rules within a single month. In this case, security cameras were used to track the actions of the residents and thereby impose fines – such as $200.00 for driving away before the gate was closed, or $200.00 for each incident of improper disposal of garbage. In this case, there were 3 cameras installed in the garbage room alone. The residents of this building are making a strong case that these cameras may have been used to collect information inappropriately.

One important recommendation would be for a condominium to include, in their written privacy policy, clauses concerning their security cameras. Five quick suggestions to be considered for inclusions to the Condominium Security Privacy Policy may include the following:

1. The purpose and location of each camera installed within the complex
2. Under what circumstances will the video be reviewed and who is authorized to view
3. What happens when/if an owner requests to review the video collected
4. How will the video be achieved and how long will it be kept for before being deleted
5. How will owners/residents be notified of changes or expansions to the existing camera system

The subject of privacy and security cameras can be a complex one. 3D Security Services provides recommendations of best industry practices and highlights areas of concerns for Board Members and Condominium Managers to consider during their management of their corporation. This, however, should not be construed as legal advice. Should a condominium encounter an incident or have serious concerns regarding their cameras and privacy issues, they would be well served to consult their legal counsel. In this case, the condominium’s written privacy policy may be invaluable information for them to properly represent the condominium.