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By Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C

Facts on photography

The emergence of street-level imaging applications and their impact on Canadians’ privacy is the subject of a Fact Sheet recently issued by the Offices of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Alberta and British Columbia, and the Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec.

The Fact Sheet corrects the common misconception that companies do not require an individual’s permission before taking her or his photograph in a public place. If a picture is taken for commercial purposes, Canadians have the right to know that, or for what purpose(s) the picture is being taken. Also, consent is required, except when the photographs are intended for journalistic, artistic, or literary purposes, and other special exceptions.

To obtain consent, the commissioners assert that organizations collecting street-level images for commercial purposes must, before commencing, provide notice, including the following information:

  • that photographing will occur;
  • when it will happen;
  • why and for what purpose it is being collected; and
  • how individuals can have images removed.

In the Fact Sheet, the commissioners also provide recommendations on how this information can be communicated, such as:

  • visible markings on the vehicles used to take the photographs;
  • press releases;
  • media stories; and
  • Web sites.

In addition, the commissioners want the photographing organizations to use blurring technologies to help protect the privacy of Canadians captured in images, and to give those whose images are posted online a mechanism to request removal of the images.

The commissioners also call for increased sensitivity and limited photo collection when it comes to sensitive facilities. “They need to be mindful,” the commissioners write, “that people entering or leaving sensitive locations, such as shelters or abortion clinics, likely want to remain anonymous for privacy and safety reasons.”

“Street-level imaging technology may offer benefits,” the commissioners write, “but these should not come at the cost of your privacy.”

View the Fact Sheet at www.priv.gc.ca.

Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C, is the founder of Nymity, which offers Web-based privacy support to help organizations control their privacy risks. Learn more at www.nymity.com.

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