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Letter: How much do you value your privacy in Olds?

Peace officers equipped with body cameras, microphones and recording devices
opinion

Like something out of George Orwell’s 1984, Town of Olds peace (bylaw) officers are now equipped with body cameras, microphones and recording devices. Big Brother is watching and recording. 

When a bylaw officer knocks at your door, chances are it won’t be for your benefit. But my understanding is that they will be video and audio recording everything, for possible later use in court. And they may not tell you in advance that you are being recorded.  

Ever seen a body camera? I never had until recently. And even when I saw it, I had to ask to confirm what it was. 

Many of the offences that bylaw officers investigate are regulatory in nature. Once the basic elements of such an offence are established in court, they are difficult, if not impossible, to defend against. That is my understanding, courtesy of the landmark case, Regina vs. the City of Sault Ste. Marie. 

If you incriminate yourself in your conversation with the video recording bylaw officer, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a conviction in court. 

One might think that a bylaw officer recording you on your own property, might be required to inform you of that fact. Ethics might dictate an up-front disclosure. I am not sure the law requires it. 

I am not knowledgeable of the optical specifications of the cameras that bylaw officers use. But I suspect that, in addition to photographing and audio recording you, the officers are recording elements of your property, including those portions of the interior of your home that are visible when you open your door to the officer, any of your personal property that might be visible, and maybe even your children.   

Consider the vast database of images of people, their property, and their children, that a bylaw officer might video-record over the course of a year of routine duties. Are you concerned how such data might be stored and its possible uses?  

Is it stored on an internet connected computer that might be hacked?  

In response to my inquiry, Director of Protective Services Justin Andrew advised that officer recorded footage is valuable in terms of officer review and training. 

Does this mean that videos that may contain images of you, your property, and perhaps your children, that were recorded at your home, without your knowledge and consent, are being used as training videos?  

And what of the audio portion of the video? Are you comfortable with that being used in training videos? 

How long are the videos retained? Are you on file forever?  

Aside from training videos, and presentation in court, what other uses are made of the recordings of you and your property, and perhaps your family?

To my knowledge, Town of Olds council is aware of, and supportive of, the use of these cameras. How much do you value your privacy? 

Terry Storey,

Olds