Calgary rec centre reassures members after security breach

The Westside Recreation Centre is assuring its male members about their privacy while in the facility's locker room after an internal memo describing a security breach was posted on Reddit.

Single photo found on shared drive in 2013 lights up social media

Westside Recreation Centre is defending its response to a 2013 security breach that drew many comments in a recent Reddit post. (Natasha Frakes/CBC)

The Westside Recreation Centre is assuring its male members about their privacy while in the facility's locker room after an internal memo saying there was a security breach, which was posted on Reddit.

The memo to the centre's staff indicates a security camera screenshot from the men's locker room was accidentally placed on a shared drive.

Since the memo was posted to Reddit, dozens of infuriated people have voiced concerns in the comment section.

However, the security breach may look worse than it actually is, according to the centre's managing director.

An image of 1 alleged thief from 2013

Norma-Jean Hogg says it involved one still image from 2013 of one man.

"There was a photo of someone breaking into a locker room," Hogg told CBC News.

"It was just that person, fully-clothed, clearly breaking into the locker, that somehow, inadvertently got placed on a shared drive."

She says the image was found by a staff member in June, and it was so deeply buried in the system that not even their IT department could find it without the staffer's guidance.

She says no footage is supposed to be stored, so once this image was found, it was deleted.

"We had an IT professional come in to make sure there was nothing else and there wasn't. And to be honest we don't know [how the image ended up on the shared drive]. Somehow in the capture on the CD for the police, it backup stored somewhere."

Cameras are for theft issues

Hogg says the cameras were placed in the men's locker room to address a theft issue.

She says theft had been on the rise since the facility opened and they had a couple of really bad incidents.

"Because they know people are here for probably at least an hour, they can take their car, go to their house and break into their house. So we did have two incidents of that," she said.

Hogg says theft has gone down exponentially since the cameras were put up.

Only used after an incident

She adds the cameras are only turned on after an incident, because usually the thief returns, and they haven't had to turn the cameras on for about six months.

There is only one male manager that has access to the camera footage, and he can only view it in the presence of a police officer, she said.

As well, Hogg says the Westside Recreation Centre tried other options — including putting cameras outside the locker rooms and increasing staff presence in the area — but adds, they weren't as effective.

Tom Keenan is a professor at the University of Calgary and the author of the book Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy.

He says there's always other options.

Tom Keenan of the University of Calgary says there are other options to protect clients. (Natasha Frakes/CBC)

"So for example, you can have better locks on the lockers. About 10 years ago, the university forbade those cheap flimsy Master Locks you buy at the dollar store and they make us use really strong locks that they provide. I'm not saying there's never a theft, but there are so many other ways that you can approach this problem," Keenan said.

Chris Stachiw uses the gym at Westside and says the facility's managers should better inform users about the cameras, in addition to the posted signs.

'Anything to catch thieves is fine with me'

"The fact that I've been a member here for a while and this is the first time that I'm hearing about it, is pretty concerning in a way, but I know that there has been quite a bit of theft here," Stachiw said.

Alfred Guebert has been a member for 11 years and also wasn't aware of the cameras. But after their purpose and use was explained, he did not seem to have a problem.

"Anything to catch thieves is fine with me," he said.

The Westside Recreation Centre says they have put up more signs about the cameras since the recent privacy concerns came to light, adding their security measures are in full compliance with Alberta privacy laws.