British Columbia

Vancouver bar's urinal TVs raise concern

A customer at the bar in Vancouver's Opus Hotel said she was shocked to discover men could watch her on video monitors placed over the urinals in the hotel's men's washroom.
A waitress appears in this image from a video screen above a urinal in the men's washroom at Vancouver's Opus Hotel. ((CBC))
A customer at the bar in Vancouver's Opus Hotel said she was shocked to discover men could watch her on video monitors placed over the urinals in the hotel's men's washroom.

Elisabeth Everett told CBC News Wednesday that she was in a group at a table in the bar celebrating her sister's birthday, but became alarmed when another patron told her what he had just seen.

"We were having a drink," said Everett. "The gentleman at the next table approached us and informed us that we were being recorded and the video was being shown in the men's washroom above the urinals."

'I think it's a violation of the privacy law here in B.C.'—B.C. privacy advocate Richard Rosenberg

There also are screens in the women's washroom, but that did not placate Everett.

"I think there's a difference between recording someone for safety or security, versus recording someone for someone else's pleasure," she said.

There are no signs in the bar warning patrons they're on camera, but the bar menu does mention that the restrooms feature "live video feeds to keep an eye on the action."

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Opus's website also invites patrons to "indulge your inner voyeurism" while using the facilities.

Rights concerns

When asked about the feeds, management at the hotel in Vancouver's Yaletown neighbourhood explained that it's all part of Opus's playful attitude.

"It's quite unique, and I think that's why we get people coming off the street to come and see the live feeds," said general manager Nicholas Gandossi. "It's definitely meant to be a bit of tongue-in-cheek."

The video monitors feature live, unrecorded feeds from the bar. ((CBC))

One Vancouver privacy advocate had a different view.

"I think there's a crime involved here," said Richard Rosenberg, president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. "I think it's a violation of the privacy law here in B.C."

Rosenberg said that just because the hotel is a private business does not necessarily give it the right to do whatever it wants with surveillance cameras.

Security images are only viewed if a crime is committed, not beamed into bathrooms, he said.

"They don't have the right, I think, to treat your image as their possession and do what they will with it."

Gandossi said Everett's complaint was the first the hotel has received about the in-house feeds, which he said are not recorded.

If there are more complaints, the hotel might consider changing the video system, he said.

With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin and Devon Goodsell

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