British Columbia

Surrey Creep Catcher group ordered to destroy videos by B.C.'s privacy watchdog

The Surrey Creep Catcher group has been ordered to remove the videos and information of two people they targeted, after complaints the group improperly collected, used and disclosed their personal information.

Group's president says no penalty can scare him into removing the videos

Ryan Laforge, president of the Surrey Creep Catcher group, has been ordered to remove and destroy information about two individuals who complained about the misleading means by which their information was obtained. (CBC News)

B.C.'s privacy commissioner has ordered the Surrey Creep Catcher group to remove some of its online materials in what one expert calls a "watershed moment" in restraining such vigilante groups.

In a ruling, acting privacy commissioner Drew McArthur ordered the group to remove and destroy the videos of two people the group has targeted, after complaints the group "improperly collected, used and disclosed their personal information."

This activity, he said, violated B.C.'s Personal Information Protection Act.

In the past, the vigilante group has impersonated underage women to invite people into conversations on dating sites. It arranges meetings where it then confronts the individual for trying to lure a minor. These meetings are filmed and posted online. 

"[The] Surrey Creep Catcher group was using deception in order to gain their personal information and then subsequently disclosing that online," said McArthur.

"They did not have the consent or authority to do that." 

Now the organization must remove and destroy the two individuals' information that was published, refrain from posting it again and ask people who have shared it to remove and delete it as well. 

The group has until Sept. 6 to comply with the order, according to the ruling.

'They can arrest me'

Ryan Laforge, president of the Surrey Creep Catcher group, says he will not respect the ruling and no penalty can scare him to stop posting the videos.

More than 700 videos of alleged predators have been filmed by the group in the past year, according to Laforge.

"The whole purpose of what we do is to expose adults in our community that prey on children," he said.

"They can arrest me, they can charge me, and we'll take it in front of a judge. And if they find me guilty I'll go to jail, and when I get out, I'll do more videos and I'll post them."

Laforge added if people were so concerned about their privacy, "they should have thought about that before they made a decision to bring a child out into the public off of the Internet."

'Watershed moment'

Wade Deisman, an associate dean and criminologist at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, says the ruling sets an important precedent.

"These organizations act with almost complete impunity relative to the law," he said. "It's still early on but this could be a watershed moment in terms of stemming the tide with respect to these types of activities."

Deisman says one key finding in the ruling is the group cannot use the notion its work is investigative or journalistic to defend its actions.

Journalism, Deisman said, has to be fair and accurate.

"[The ruling said] the group wasn't at all interested in information that contradicted the story it wanted to tell ... and it was actually misleading the public significantly."

As to whether the ruling will have any effect on the group — especially given Laforge's defiant stance — Deisman is pragmatic, saying since the group tends to see itself as above the law, a ruling like this might not deter them as expected.

But, he said, the ruling destroys any public illusion these groups are justified in their work.

"There are much more even-handed measures [than the Creep Catcher group] ... It's important to remind the public we have due process [and] the presumption of innocence for a reason."

With files from Cory Correia