In Greenstone, citizens can offer their CCTV footage if the police need it. An elected official believes the initiative can improve public safety while a law professor sees privacy issues.
The Ontario Provincial Police offers citizens the opportunity to make their security cameras available to them using a database.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Greenstone Detachment launched a program last week that allows citizens to voluntarily share footage from their security cameras to home so that they can be used in the investigation of crimes.
In a press release issued on August 31, the Greenstone OPP invited the people of the area to participate in its Digital Assistance program.
Police are asking anyone interested to fill out a form to give some information about the person and the camera surveillance system they have at home.
The OPP says this project does not force individuals to provide access to their camera footage. Only contact data will be stored on secure servers.
During an investigation, the OPP will review the list of program participants to determine who to contact for camera footage.
OPP spokesperson Brian Frost, says that since the program began, it has received some interest, but the police department wants to get more people to participate.
Greenstone Mayor Rénald Beaulieu says he had not received the fine details of the program, but that it is a good idea for the community.
The mayor of Greenstone, Rénald Beaulieu
It's a bit like witnessing something without have nothing to do with it because it may be your neighbor who got screwed; it’s a bit like a citizen neighborhood watch program, he says.
According to him, many people in the area already have multiple cameras to monitor their property.
Like many others in the region, I have several cameras at my businesses, at my house that I have in Longlac, in my offices, and then it's not cameras for everyone, but if I get busted or someone comes home, it's a good thing the police have those images, he adds.
He says the OPP has been working on community safety strategies in Greenstone for several years.
According to Céline Castets-Renard, full professor at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law , the creation of a program such as that of Greenstone poses several problems relating to the protection of privacy.
She particularly fears that this type of program adds a layer of surveillance in society.
When we are in public spaces, we can expect more to be observed, we can say that we may have less privacy in public places. On the other hand, when it is rather a question of private spaces, we speak of houses or gardens, we can think that we are in private spaces and that there is not necessarily a sharing of information, explains- she.
While the police department says the data is secure, Ms. Castets-Renard believes the images may be at risk the moment one chooses to transfer them to the police.
Zero risk does not exist even if you are the police, especially when you have to interact with private systems, she says.
Céline Castets-Renard believes that this type of program increases surveillance, even in private places .
She indicates that the images from private cameras could be the most vulnerable to hackers from the moment there is an exchange of information.
And the data that could be leaked is important, according to Ms. Castets-Renard.
It is enough to recognize the places and to cross with the real estate information to identify the people, to see even more directly with the model of vehicle and the license plate, obviously this is very personal information, she explains. /p>
We can also know more about our whereabouts and also who comes to our house, so there is a risk for privacy, she adds.
Ms. Castets-Renard recalls that surveillance cameras, although technologically advanced, cannot tell the whole story and that the police forces who use them and the citizens who consult them must respect the presumption of innocence of the persons whom the x27; we see on the pictures.
According to Greenstone Mayor Rénald Beaulieu, the voluntary nature of participation in the program is a factor that helps protect privacy.
Gaston St-Onge, investigating officer at the Geraldton Detachment of the OPP, assures that the transfer of citizens' data will be done in a secure manner and without the involvement of the police.
With the consent of the citizens, we will give them a USB key, on which they themselves will put the requested images, to then take it directly to use it in the investigation, he said. He adds that the data will only be used by the police.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario has not yet responded to our inquiries prior to the publication of this report.
With information from CBC