County passes video surveillance policy

By Chad Ingram

Published June 30 2020

Haliburton County councillors approved a video surveillance policy during their June 24 meeting held via videoconferencing and broadcast on YouTube.
“While there are no impending video surveillance projects planned for the county the use of video surveillance has been discussed in the past” read a report from county IT director Mike March. “As well IT staff have received several requests from member municipalities to investigate video surveillance solutions for their use. Due to the threat of privacy breaches improper use and collection of video etc. and the risk of liability associated with this type of surveillance it is important that strong policies and procedures are in place before the county becomes involved in any video surveillance project.”

In drafting the policy March looked at policies in place in other municipalities. Its guiding principles include that data from cameras would be collected only when authorized by statute required by law enforcement “or when necessary to the proper administration of a lawfully authorized activity”; minimizing the amount of data that is collected; retaining data for no longer than it is required; using data only for the purpose for which is collected; taking all reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorized access to data; notifying individuals through signage that video surveillance is in use; and not disclosing data unless the disclosure is “with consent from the individuals whose personal information appears in the images; in response to a Freedom of Information request; or requested by law enforcement to aid an investigation.”
March’s report noted the policy had been reviewed by law firm Ewart O’Dwyer.

Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen said the policy “kind of took me by surprise.”
“I’m just assuming that before you would do any work in any of the member municipalities that they would be required to adopt whatever policy we finally agree on?” Danielsen said.
March said that was correct.
“Ultimately they’re under no obligation to use [county] IT services in their security camera system but if that’s what you want you want us to assist we need to make sure there are strong policies and procedures in place before the county would assist with those projects” March said.
“Like you say we’re not availing ourselves of this today but probably in one shape or another in many of our futures …” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin. “Thank you. You’ve set all the tables and a very high standard for any of us that may proceed on these matters in the future.”

“I would agree with that” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt. “In Algonquin Highlands we’ve had a couple of occasions where some grumpy folks have said some things they shouldn’t have said perhaps and got themselves in a bit of trouble. And I know that one of the requests about video surveillance has come from us.”
In mid-December of last year the Algonquin Highlands office along North Shore Road was evacuated and employees sent home after receiving threats against the township.
Chad Ingram Staff