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What are the laws regarding surveillance?

Region: Ontario Answer # 6006

Surveillance practices in the security industry are legal in most cases but are subject to rigorous legal considerations under federal and provincial laws. These laws govern the use of surveillance equipment and techniques in security operations when conducting surveillance and outline legal requirements for obtaining and using surveillance evidence.

If you require security services, including corporate, business, and personal security, contact our preferred experts, Smith Security.

Federal law

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA): PIPEDA is the federal law that governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by private sector organizations, including security companies. It requires organizations to obtain consent when collecting personal information and imposes strict standards for data protection.

To use surveillance cameras, the circumstances must be reasonable. It is generally illegal to use surveillance cameras in private spaces, such as bathrooms or changing rooms, where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Provincial law

Ontario has specific regulations governing the use of security cameras in various settings, such as workplaces and public spaces. These regulations, found under both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act(MFIPPA) dictate where and how surveillance cameras can be used. For example, they require visible signage to inform individuals that they are being recorded.

View the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario Guidelines for the Use of Surveillance for more information.

What are the legal requirements to protect an individual’s privacy?

Under MFIPPA and FIPPA, videotaped surveillance is defined as a “collection” of personal information, and it is authorized on only three grounds:

  1. The collection is expressly authorized by statute;
  2. It is used for the purposes of law enforcement; or
  3. It is necessary to the proper administration of a lawfully authorized activity.

Under both PIPEDA and provincial privacy laws, security companies must adhere to several rules regarding surveillance to protect individuals’ privacy rights, primarily:

  1. Consent: Obtaining consent is a fundamental requirement for conducting surveillance in most cases. Security companies must ensure that individuals being monitored are aware of the surveillance and have provided their informed consent implicitly or explicitly, depending on the circumstances.
  2. Purpose Limitation: Surveillance activities must have a clear and legitimate purpose, such as deterring criminal activities or ensuring public safety. Data collected should not be used for purposes beyond what was originally intended.

How can security companies ensure compliance with surveillance regulations?

There are several rules and procedures that security companies must follow to ensure they are complaint with privacy laws and regulations. These include:

Use of surveillance evidence

Surveillance evidence collected by security personnel must be handled in compliance with legal standards. This includes maintaining the chain of custody, ensuring the evidence is admissible in court, and adhering to any applicable rules of evidence.

Transparency and notice

Security companies must provide clear and conspicuous notice to individuals about the surveillance being conducted. This can be done through visible signage, informing individuals of the purpose and scope of the surveillance.

Consent mechanisms

Security companies should establish mechanisms for obtaining consent from individuals when required by law. This may include verbal or written consent, depending on the circumstances.

Ethical surveillance practices

Security personnel should conduct surveillance in an ethical manner, avoiding invasive or unjustified monitoring. This includes refraining from surveillance in areas where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restrooms or private offices.

Data protection

Security companies must implement strong data protection measures to safeguard surveillance data from unauthorized access or breaches. This includes encryption, secure storage, and access controls.

Retention and destruction

Surveillance data should be retained only for as long as necessary for the purpose for which it was collected. Once the retention period expires, security companies should ensure the secure destruction of the data.

Oversight and auditing

Security companies should establish oversight and auditing mechanisms to ensure ongoing compliance with privacy regulations. This may involve regular assessments of surveillance practices and data handling procedures.

Surveillance in security operations in Canada is governed both federal and provincial laws. Compliance with privacy regulations is essential to conducting surveillance legally and ethically while upholding individuals’ privacy rights. Security companies must be proactive in ensuring that their surveillance activities align with Canadian and provincial laws to avoid legal consequences and protect individuals’ privacy.

For help

For help with security services, including surveillance, contact our preferred experts, Smith Security. If you are interested in becoming a professional security guard, they also offer a government approved security guard training course.


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