Hamilton is a step away from constant drone surveillance, councillor says

Two Hamilton city councillors say they'll vote against any effort to let private security cameras record people in public spaces. But the city is still looking into it.

2 councillors say they'll vote against efforts to let private security cameras film people in public spaces

The city is looking at changing its bylaw around private security cameras to allow residents to film public areas. (CBC News)

Two Hamilton city councillors say they'll vote against any effort to let private security cameras record people in public spaces. But the city is still looking into it.

Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 councillor, says letting private citizens point security cameras at areas like the street will violate people's constitutional rights.

And Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, calls it a step toward having people being on camera at all times.

"We are not far off from a place where, if we go down this path, we'll have drone surveillance everywhere," he said.

City council whisked through a vote Wednesday to look at the feasibility of changing the bylaw governing private security cameras.

Under that bylaw, residents can only point their cameras at their own property. They can't aim them at the street or any other public area.

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, says that doesn't make sense. People can already be recorded and photographed in public places, he said. And such footage helps police solve crimes.

It would violate someone's privacy to film their backyard, Merulla said. But not the street.

Brian Beamish, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, disagrees.

In a Feb. 13 letter, he told council this was "a significant privacy issue."

Changing the bylaw would violate the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Beamish said.

It would also capture personal information of "law-abiding individuals going about their everyday lives," he said.

The decision was bundled in an earlier committee report. It quickly came and went when council ratified that report Wednesday.

Both Johnson and Green objected to that.

"We only didn't vote in opposition because we literally missed the vote," Johnson said Thursday.

He's not worried about it yet. It's only a vote to look into the idea, he said.

But when that report comes back, he'll vote against it.

Beamish's letter confirmed that there are "deep constitutional problems" with expanding the range of private cameras, he said.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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