TTC's surveillance cameras comply with privacy Act, but additional steps needed to enhance privacy protection, says Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian

    TORONTO, March 3 /CNW/ - Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann
Cavoukian ruled today that the Toronto Transit System's expansion of its video
surveillance system, for the purposes of public safety and security, is in
compliance with Ontario's Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of
Privacy Act - but she is calling on the TTC to undertake a number of specific
steps to enhance privacy protection.
    The Commissioner's office conducted a four-month special investigation
that went beyond the scope of the usual privacy investigation conducted in
that it included:

    -  A detailed review of the literature and analysis from various parts of
       the world on the effectiveness of video surveillance;

    -  An examination of the role that privacy-enhancing technologies can
       play in mitigating the privacy-invasive nature of video surveillance
       cameras; and

    -  A detailed investigation into a privacy complaint by U.K-based Privacy
       International about the expansion of the TTC's video surveillance

    "Video surveillance presents a difficult subject matter for privacy
officials to grapple with impartially because, on its face, it is inherently
privacy-invasive due to the potential for data capture - despite that fact,
there are legitimate uses for video surveillance ... that render it in
compliance with our privacy laws," said the Commissioner. "Mass transit
systems like the TTC, that are required to move large volumes of people, in
confined spaces, on a daily basis, give rise to unique safety and security
issues for the general public and operators of the system."
    "The challenge we thus face is to rein in, as tightly as possible, any
potential for the unauthorized deployment of the system. We have attempted to
do this by ensuring that strong controls are in place with respect to its
governance (policy/procedures), oversight (independent audit, reportable to my
office) and, the most promising long-term measure, the introduction of
innovative privacy-enhancing technologies to effectively eliminate
unauthorized access or use of any personal information obtained."
    While the expectation of privacy in public places is not the same as in
private places, it does not disappear. People have the right, the Commissioner
stresses in her report, to expect the following when it comes to video

    -  That their personal information will only be collected for legitimate,
       limited and specific purposes;

    -  That the collection will be limited to the minimum necessary for the
       specified purposes; and

    -  That their personal information will only be used and disclosed for
       the specified purposes.

    "These general principles," said Commissioner Cavoukian, "should apply to
all video surveillance systems. Where developments such as video surveillance
in mass transit systems, like the TTC, can be shown to be needed for public
safety, you must also ensure that threats to privacy are kept to an absolute
    Among the 13 recommendations the Commissioner is making to the TTC are
the following:

    -  That the TTC reduce its retention period for video surveillance images
       from a maximum of seven days to a maximum of 72 hours (the same
       standard as the Toronto Police), unless required for an investigation;

    -  That the TTC's video surveillance policy should specifically state
       that the annual audit must be thorough, comprehensive, and must test
       all program areas of the TTC employing video surveillance to ensure
       compliance with the policy and the written procedures. The initial
       audit should be conducted by an independent third party using
       Generally Accepted Privacy Principles, and should include an
       assessment of the extent to which the TTC has complied with the
       recommendations made in this special report;

    -  That the TTC should select a location to evaluate the privacy-
       enhancing video surveillance technology developed by University of
       Toronto researchers, K. Martin and K. Plataniotis; and

    -  That, prior to providing the police with direct remote access to the
       video surveillance images, the TTC should amend the draft memorandum
       of understanding (MOU) with the Toronto Police to require that the
       logs of disclosures be subjected to regular audits, conducted on
       behalf of the TTC. A copy of the revised draft MOU should be provided
       to the Commissioner prior to signing.


    The Commissioner devotes part of her 50-page special report, and a
specific recommendation, to the area of emerging privacy-enhancing video
surveillance technology.
    "In light of the growth of surveillance technologies, not to mention the
proliferation of biometrics and sensoring devices, the future of privacy may
well lie in ensuring that the necessary protections are built right into their
design," said the Commissioner. "Privacy by design may be our ultimate
protection in the future, promising a positive sum paradigm instead of the
unlikely obliteration of a given technology."
    As an example of the research being conducted into privacy-enhancing
technologies, the Commissioner cites the work of researchers Karl Martin and
Kostas Plataniotis at the University of Toronto, who used cryptographic
techniques to develop a secure object-based coding approach. While the
background image captured by a surveillance camera can be viewed, the sections
where individuals are caught in the image would automatically be encrypted by
the software. Designated staff could monitor the footage for unauthorized
activity, but would not be able to identify anyone. Only a limited number of
designated officials with the correct encryption key could view the full
    The Commissioner is recommending that the TTC select a location to
evaluate the video surveillance technology developed by Martin and
    A copy of the special report is available on the IPC's website,
    Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and
reports to the Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government of
the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access and privacy
provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the
Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the
Personal Health Information Protection Act, and helping to educate the public
about access and privacy issues.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Bob Spence, Communications
Co-ordinator, Direct line: (416) 326-3939, Cell phone: (416) 873-9746, Toll
free: 1-800-387-0073,,

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