City council members are looking into the implications of rolling out surveillance cameras around the ByWard Market, but a privacy expert warns the municipal government that deploying cameras requires careful thought on controlling the footage and notifying the public.
Ottawa police continue to investigate the shooting death of 21-year old Ryan Kabuya-Ntumba early Monday in the market.
It was the second death in the area in a month. On June 10, Markland “Jahiant” Campbell died after being shot along ByWard Market Square. Police charged an 18-year-old man with second-degree murder.
Mayor Jim Watson says the city should consider surveillance cameras installed in the areas of Rideau Street and the ByWard Market. He had a meeting scheduled Wednesday with Ottawa police brass about policing issues, including the prospect of using closed-circuit television monitoring (CCTV).
“This is something that has been brought up over the years,” Watson said. “We’ve had portable units that we’ve brought into parks and so on. They act as a deterrent if someone knows you’re going to be on television, they may not be as brazen as they have been. And secondly, it does give police evidence. There’s an extra set of eyes in the neighbourhood, the park (and) the street to deter some of the challenges.”
Watson said he doesn’t know yet about the privacy implications with installing surveillance cameras. He planned to ask police those questions.
“Are there things we can do that are not going to get us in trouble legally, but also act as a deterrent for people to engage in this senseless gun violence?” Watson said.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury is also interested in expanded surveillance camera coverage in the market.
Ann Cavoukian, the former Ontario information and privacy commissioner, said there’s a growing trend of municipalities looking into using CCTV in public spaces, especially as the cost of the technology decreases.
Rolling out surveillance cameras in the City of Ottawa’s public areas must be carefully planned and controlled, Cavoukian said.
“If (organizations) decide to go this direction, what I always advise them to do is make it very clear. Put signage up letting people know that if they enter into a particular area that there are CCTV cameras on and that they’re on 24/7 and they’ll be collecting whatever information,” Cavoukian said.
Cavoukian said she also encourages organizations to encrypt the video so the right people have access to viewing the footage, rather than allowing random staff to watch the files.
“If there is a legitimate reason to access the footage, you get a warrant and you get it. If you have probable cause and you’re the police, it’s easy to get a warrant. Then you can decrypt the video footage and access whatever you need to access,” she said. “That gives you the combination of law enforcement safety and security issues and privacy.”
Cavoukian said cameras capture a pile of information that, while might not be considered criminal or related to safety, can impact people’s personal lives if the footage is exposed to an audience.
“I always tell people, beware of the unintended consequences,” she said.