Study­ing stu­dents

Video cam­eras in schools and on school buses must be used prop­erly: pri­vacy com­mis­sioner


If video cam­eras are to be in­stalled and used in schools and on school buses in the prov­ince, the pur­pose for each in­di­vid­ual cam­era must be iden­ti­fied un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act, 2015 (ATIPPA, 2015), a re­cent re­port points out.

Fail­ing to do so is break­ing the law, ac­cord­ing In­for­ma­tion and Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner Dono­van Mol­loy.

In ad­di­tion, when cam­eras are to be used, de­tailed poli­cies and pro­ce­dures should be de­vel­oped to out­line the proper process for the cre­ation, de­struc­tion, view­ing and stor­age of con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion.

Mol­loy on Thurs­day re­leased his of­fice’s au­dit re­port on “The Use of Video Sur­veil­lance in Schools and on School Buses Un­der Au­thor­ity of the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act, 2015.”

In the re­port, the is­sues sur­round­ing the use of video cam­eras ver­sus pri­vacy in pub­lic places is ad­dressed, and rec­om­men­da­tions are made for the New­found­land and Labrador English School Dis­trict as it deals with how to jus­tify the in­stal­la­tion or up­grad­ing of video sur­veil­lance sys­tems in schools and on school buses.

“(ATIPPA, 2015) lim­its the ca­pac­ity of pub­lic bod­ies’ to col­lect and use per­sonal in­for­ma­tion in or­der to en­sure the pub­lic’s right to pri­vacy,” Mol­loy writes in the re­port.

“Video sur­veil­lance is be­com­ing more and more preva­lent in to­day’s so­ci­ety and con­tin­ues to erode our pri­vacy. Many have be­come de­sen­si­tized to its pres­ence, as­sum­ing that some­one is al­ways watch­ing or record­ing what we do. The im­pli­ca­tions of con­stant sur­veil­lance, es­pe­cially ubiq­ui­tous sur­veil­lance of our chil­dren, are de­serv­ing of fur­ther re­search.”

Mol­loy noted that to pro­tect stu­dents in schools and on school buses, video sur­veil­lance might have a role to play along­side other ini­tia­tives.

“While there are times that the use of video sur­veil­lance is jus­ti­fied, it should al­ways be one of a num­ber of al­ter­na­tive ini­tia­tives con­sid­ered and/or im­ple­mented to ad­dress the is­sue at hand,” he said. “Dur­ing the course of this au­dit, for ex­am­ple, some schools doc­u­mented al­ter­nate ac­tiv­i­ties ex­tremely well, in­clud­ing an en­tire school com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing par­ents and stu­dents, be­ing re-ed­u­cated on be­havioural ex­pec­ta­tions, and trained school pre­fects mon­i­tor­ing the school dur­ing the day.

Less pri­vacy-in­va­sive op­tions must al­ways be con­sid­ered and ex­plored be­fore re­sort­ing to video sur­veil­lance.”

In fact, the re­port states fur­ther that, “When cam­eras are used, the act re­quires that a clearly de­fined pur­pose be iden­ti­fied. Ev­i­dence and doc­u­men­ta­tion to sup­port the need for sur­veil­lance are re­quired, in­clud­ing: spe­cific in­ci­dents tied to each cam­era lo­ca­tion to jus­tify the use of each in­di­vid­ual cam­era, and de­tails of al­ter­na­tives con­sid­ered and im­ple­mented prior to the cam­era use.

“Such doc­u­men­ta­tion must be a liv­ing doc­u­ment, chang­ing as needs arise and kept up to date. Anec­do­tal data is in­suf­fi­cient. Schools need to keep records of in­ci­dents of con­cern and track fre­quency be­fore and af­ter any pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures. We hope that the dis­trict will use this au­dit as an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue its eval­u­a­tion of cur­rently in­stalled video sur­veil­lance sys­tems to en­sure that it has the au­thor­ity, un­der the ATIPPA, 2015, to col­lect per­sonal in­for­ma­tion via every cam­era/sys­tem op­er­at­ing in its schools. The dis­trict is legally ob­li­gated to cease col­lect­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion if cam­era use can­not be jus­ti­fied.

“We hope that stu­dents, par­ents and school as­so­ci­a­tions will en­gage with the dis­trict in ex­plor­ing the root causes of is­sues and the con­sid­er­a­tion of grad­u­ated re­sponses to re­solve prob­lems that ex­ist. The safety of stu­dents and staff is para­mount. While video sur­veil­lance may some­times be nec­es­sary to achieve that re­sult, con­sid­er­a­tions must in­clude in­terim re­sponses that least im­pact pri­vacy.”

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions made and ac­cepted by the school dis­trict in the re­port are: that the school dis­trict work with the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment to de­velop ap­pro­pri­ate con­trac­tual lan­guage re­gard­ing video sur­veil­lance on buses and in­cor­po­rate that into con­tracts start­ing in the 2019-20 school year; the school dis­trict de­velop fur­ther guid­ance re­gard­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ac­cess to per­sonal in­for­ma­tion col­lected us­ing video sur­veil­lance to bet­ter en­sure that the min­i­mum num­ber of peo­ple nec­es­sary have ac­cess; and that the dis­trict iden­tify and ob­tain ap­pro­pri­ate soft­ware, or iden­tify a third-party ser­vice provider, to block or blur iden­ti­ties of by­s­tanders prior to dis­clos­ing videos other than to a law en­force­ment agency or in re­sponse to a sum­mons, court or­der or other le­gal com­pul­sion.

“Although the (school dis­trict) had a num­ber of safe­guards in place, ar­eas of non-com­pli­ance were iden­ti­fied dur­ing the course of the au­dit,” Mol­loy said. “This of­fice is pleased that the (school dis­trict) has ac­cepted all rec­om­men­da­tions in this re­port and has started on im­ple­men­ta­tion.”


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