Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday February 10, 2018
Should Hamilton homeowners be allowed to point cameras at the street?
The city will look at making it legal for homeowners to point security cameras at the street as a way to aid police investigations.
But the province’s former privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, is urging council to think twice.
Councillors endorsed a motion from Coun. Sam Merulla Wednesday to study changing a city bylaw that bans residential security cameras from pointing anywhere other than the homeowner’s own property.
Merulla argued home security footage is an increasingly crucial investigative tool, pointing to footage that helped police track down the people who murdered Ancaster’s Tim Bosma.
“You can already walk down the street holding a video camera without breaking the law. But you can’t point a security camera at the street? That doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
He also argued the existing bylaw is tough to enforce, given a homeowner can refuse access to a bylaw officer seeking to examine camera footage.
But Cavoukian, now a privacy expert-in-residence at Ryerson University, said Hamilton’s bylaw was hailed as a “progressive” measure when it was passed in 2010. (The rule was one of many included in the city’s “fortifications” bylaw enacted in response to gang clubhouse concerns.)
“You would be going from a wonderful bylaw that protects your citizens’ fundamental right to privacy … to allowing practically everything (in neighbourhoods) to be recorded,” she said. “Why would you do that?”
It’s unclear how many Ontario cities actually ban private homeowner cameras from pointing at public spaces. London has a bylaw with similar provisions. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)