Yukon's Information and Privacy Commissioner is cautioning government against the overuse of video surveillance.

Diane McLeod-McKay says there are far too many hidden cameras in Whitehorse.

"My concern is that video is being overused and sometimes the reason for its use is not being balanced against the privacy risks."

McLeod-McKay says video surveillance is one of the most invasive tools available, and should only be used as a last resort.

After discussions with various departments, McLeod McKay has published a guide targeting government and other public bodies on the use of hidden cameras.

"Even if the law says we can do this, should we do this? Is this responsible? To be surveilling society this way?"

McLeod-McKay says public bodies often cite security and cost savings to justify hidden cameras.

'There has to be significant benefit'

"Cost-effectiveness is no justification to infringe on privacy rights,” she says.

“There has to be more than that. There has to be a significant benefit to be gained that is not just cost-effective, and yes there is this significant use of video surveillance without the balancing. They aren't really looking at how privacy rights are being infringed."

Dan Cable, spokesperson for Yukon's Department of Justice, says the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has more than 450 cameras, and other buildings such as the justice centre and probation services offices also have cameras.

He says security concerns are real.

"[It's] not 'stuff might happen,' he said. "Stuff does happen and it has happened, and that's the nature of the justice business. Maybe it's not appropriate in other places but in our business it is."

While she won’t discuss specifics, McLeod-McKay says she knows of cases where privacy rights have been ignored, and invites Yukoners to bring any that they see to her attention.

McLeod-McKay says at least one government department has followed her advice and cancelled its plans for video surveillance cameras.

She says her authority covers only Yukon government institutions, but she urges private groups to consider her guidelines.