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Turn off apartment surveillance cameras, B.C. landlord told

Woman said building manager was watching her via surveillance system to see if she had broken the rules.
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The complainant said she hadn't given consent for her images to be collected and used.

B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPIC) has ordered a landlord to turn off its surveillance cameras as a complaint about the collection of tenant images proceeds.

“Based on the parties’ descriptions of the placement of the video cameras, I also conclude that the tenants in this building have no choice but to be monitored as they enter or leave the building or use the lobby or laundry room,” adjudicator Celia Francis said in a recently released decision.

Francis said a female tenant had complained FHBW Investments Co. Ltd., the owner of the building in which she resided, was collecting, using and disclosing her video images in contravention of Section 6 of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).

Francis agreed and ordered FHBW to disable the video cameras, to stop collecting, using and disclosing her video images and to delete the video images.

The OIPC heard the woman had asked the company to stop. When she received no response, she contacted the OIPC.

The May 25 decision alleged the building manager had:

  • harassed her for having a housesitter when she left the country;
  • threatened to evict her and empty her apartment while she was gone;
  • admitted that she (the building manager) frequently watched video recordings from the surveillance system, not to investigate a significant security or safety incident or criminal activity, but to monitor and report on the complainant’s comings and goings, and to catch other tenants flouting her rules, and;
  • improperly disclosed, both to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) and to her ex-husband still photographs from the surveillance system.

She said she did not object to the use of surveillance for safety security and criminal matters but did not consent to being monitored or that information might be collected to determine if she had improperly sublet her apartment.

The woman had never given consent for use of her images, the decision said. Francis said the videos were of the complainant engaged in personal activities.

The company acknowledged it had used the images as part of an RTB process.

FHBW said it installed video surveillance in 2010 to deter theft and unauthorized entry and also to identify those associated with these activities. FHBW reportedly said it was authorized under PIPA to collect the complainant’s personal information without her consent for those purposes.

Francis said FHBW had not given enough notice of its surveillance.