Kelowna spycams illegal?

The provincial information and privacy commissioner is looking into Kelowna's use of closed circuit surveillance.

In a memo released Wednesday, Drew McArthur, the province's acting information and privacy commissioner says local governments are planning to implement video surveillance in public spaces, on a scale unprecedented in B.C.

One of the cities he singled out was Kelowna, which has plans to hire people to monitor surveillance cameras in real time.

McArthur says proposals being put forward "assume video surveillance prevents crime and justifies the persistent invasion of law-abiding people who are just going about their day-to-day business."

While surveillance is tempting as a way to address public safety, he says there is little evidence it works.

"While the benefits of video surveillance are hypothetical, the harm it presents to privacy of British Columbians is real, and will only be amplified by increasingly sophisticated facial recognition technology and big data analyses identifying and following us from camera to camera," said McArthur.

He adds the privacy office is working with municipalities to determine if their proposals are legal. "Which remains to be seen."

During a pilot project in the summer, building services manager Martin Johansen said live monitoring had a "significant impact" on the city's three parkades.

During budget deliberations in December, council approved $30,000 for the monitoring of about 300 city cameras.

City risk manager Lance Kayfish was not aware of the memorandum until notified by Castanet.

"It has come as a surprise to us," said Kayfish.

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