Skip to content

Condo surveillance went too far, says privacy watchdog

Hidden cameras, tracking key fobs, sharing private video data on strata owners and guests represent excessive use of surveillance, report says
surveillance camera
Yaletown strata complex has 28 surveillance cameras and 30 fob access points. |File photo

B.C.’s privacy commissioner has told a Vancouver strata corporation to stop using security surveillance system data for purposes other than which it was collected.

And, the strata was told, some data collected through its door key fob system was inappropriate.

"I find the degree of intrusiveness is high since the cameras run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, wrote Lisa Siew, an Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner adjudicator, in a June 29 decision. “The continuous collection of this information can have personal and social effects on individuals while they are under surveillance.”

Siew approved collection and use of personal information for enforcement of garbage disposal bylaws, for prevention and investigation of property damage in the parkade area and to create and update a key-fob inventory.

Apart from those points, Siew told the strata to stop collecting and using personal information through its video surveillance system, to stop collecting and using personal information through its key fob monitoring system and recommended the strata provide owners and residents with a complete list of all the video camera locations.

A resident complained the Yaletown strata had violated the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) by inappropriately collecting, using and disclosing personal information obtained through the systems. 

The complainant also alleged the strata was not adequately protecting the personal information.

The complainant alleged the strata “recklessly released the personal information including contact information and signatures of all lot owners without consent when including the list of people who attended an AGM.”

In response, the strata accused the resident of capturing the personal information of other individuals without consent by providing a photo of a computer screen allegedly showed “FOB use in real time.”

Siew stressed PIPA doesn’t explicitly prohibit the use of video surveillance by strata corporations, but because of their “arbitrary invasiveness,” such systems should only be used after less privacy-intrusive measures have failed to address a serious problem.

First, Siew said providing evidence to the commissioner of the issue under discussion was appropriate.

The strata corporation consists of 176 strata lots, including townhouses, divided between two complexes. The surveillance camera and key fob systems were updated in 2015. There are 28 cameras inside and outside and 30 fob access points.

The strata had investigated the resident for a rule violation. During that investigation, video surveillance footage of the complainant and his guests was allegedly shared with others.

He further alleged strata council members and others were viewing video surveillance footage of individuals in the hot tub.

He said he was actively monitored in real time and that the strata wanted to use cameras to monitor traffic in the garage and to catch people discarding cigarette butts.

“The organization appears to be collecting personal information from cameras hidden throughout the interior and exterior of the building and it uses personal information for undisclosed reasons,” the decision said.  

Further, it said, the strata introduced a rule to deny elevator access, and thus unit access, to residents who violated the strata’s rules and bylaws. 

The complainant explained the rule is implemented by “using the key-fob database information to deny access to the elevators by deactivating people’s key fob.”

Siew found the fob system collected personal information “clearly about identifiable individuals” and stored it in a database.
“It would clearly be a simple matter for the organization to use video surveillance footage, the concierge’s observations or eyewitness accounts to determine the identity of the person using a key fob at a specific location, date and time,” Siew wrote.

Further, she said, any visitors to the strata complex such as guests of owners or residents, couriers, delivery drivers or tradespeople will be affected by the organization’s collection of personal information.

And, she said, while some of the notification signs in the building about surveillance were sufficient, she said the strata bylaw about data collection was insufficient.