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Privacy

Public should weigh in on workplace surveillance tool laws

The increasing trend toward legislation that would mandate the use of continuous surveillance tools as a safety precaution in private sector organizations would benefit from a broad, public discussion, Vancouver privacy and information lawyer Sara Levine tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

As the article notes, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) identified the need for in-cab voice and video recorders following a fatal accident in 2012 that claimed the lives of three VIA Rail Canada Inc. employees. Last November, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced his intention to make the installation and use of locomotive voice and video recorders (LVVRs) mandatory.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities began hearings in September on Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, which would require all railway operators install and utilize LVVRs, The Lawyer’s Daily reports.

In addition to amending the Railway Safety Act to mandate the installation of LVVRs in locomotive cabs, the act also proposes to limit the purpose for which the data is used — by the TSB for accident or incident investigation purposes, by federally regulated companies to identify safety concerns and determine the cause of accidents not under investigation by the TSB, and by Transport Canada to address safety threats or develop policy.

However, Canada's largest union in the rail sector argues the federal government has provided “little evidence” to demonstrate how LVVRs will be an improvement over the "black box" data recorders already installed on trains, says the article.

Levine tells The Lawyer’s Daily: “The incremental incursions of surveillance into workplaces throughout the country has the potential to restructure our social fabric in ways we are just beginning to understand.”

Although she says legislative changes like these are “generally well-intentioned,” she adds that they are often imposed without an analysis of alternatives that might be available to achieve the objective while minimizing the infringement on privacy rights.

“Asking this preliminary question is a fundamental requirement to any privacy analysis when surveillance is considered in a workplace or by a government entity,” says Levine.

“[This situation] may create a situation analogous to real-time monitoring, because the worker will never know which part of the recording will be reviewed and thus will never know exactly when they are ‘being watched.’”

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