Guidelines for Security Camera Use

Guidelines for Security Camera Use

By Angela Altass

Security cameras can play an essential role in protecting a business and will help mitigate potential losses, says Shaan Alikhan, team leader, new business, property and hospitality, Zensurance.

“Convenience store and carwash owners should have security cameras in conjunction with monitored central station Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) approved alarms on the premises to protect their properties,” says Alikhan. “Security cameras will act as a good deterrent in reducing the potential for theft and break and enters. In addition, security cameras can play a vital role in investigating a claim. In the insurance industry today, insurance companies may not provide commercial property coverage without knowing that certain minimum levels of security are in place, including, but not limited to, monitored central station ULC approved alarms and security cameras.”

When assessing a business before providing a quote, insurance companies also analyze the moral behaviours of the business owners, looking for moral hazards, states Alikhan.

“With high-quality security systems and cameras in place, the insurance companies will feel more comfortable providing a quote knowing that the business owners are doing their best to protect the business,” says Alikhan. “At times, this may also lead to a reduced premium. Generally, security systems must be ULC compliant to meet the insurance company’s minimum standards. Ensuring their security systems and cameras meet the needs of the convenience store or carwash and are suitable for that business will assist in protecting the business.”

Store owners need to take the necessary steps to protect their properties and make it more difficult for criminals to break in, says Alikhan.

“Store owners should always look to protect their properties as if they do not have insurance coverage,” states Alikhan. “Insurance coverage is becoming increasingly essential for all businesses. We strongly recommend that business owners seeking to purchase substantial and relevant insurance coverage ensure that all security systems and cameras they have installed are appropriate for the property, fully up-to-date and of the highest standard. Security cameras are very much like insurance coverage. They are purchased for a fixed cost to protect a business from unknown losses.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has guidelines available for use of video surveillance. 

“Our office is responsible for overseeing compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private-sector privacy law, which applies to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities,” says Vito Pilieci, senior communications advisor, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. “We would note that three provinces, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, have enacted private-sector privacy laws that would apply to retail stores and carwashes in those jurisdictions.”

Organizations employing video surveillance should establish a retention period that identifies how long the information needs to be kept, says Pilieci.

“When the data is no longer required to fulfil the identified purpose, it should be destroyed, erased, or made anonymous,” says Pilieci.

The Guidelines for Overt Video Surveillance in the Private Sector states that the use of video surveillance by private sector organizations has exploded in recent years. The guidelines apply to overt video surveillance of the public by private sector organizations in publicly accessible areas. They do not apply to covert video surveillance conducted by private investigators on behalf of insurance companies, nor do they apply to the surveillance of employees.

“As technology has evolved and costs have fallen dramatically, video surveillance is increasingly accessible to a large range of organizations,” says the guidelines. “Security and crime control concerns are the most common motivating factors for the deployment of video surveillance cameras. Retailers use cameras in hopes of deterring thefts and identifying suspects. Some retailers conduct video surveillance to analyze consumer behaviour: which store aisles they frequent, where they stop, and what products they examine.”

The guidelines of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada state that most privacy laws require organizations conducting video surveillance to post a clear and understandable notice about the use of cameras on its premises to individuals whose images might be captured by them, before these individuals enter the premises. 

“This gives people the option of not entering the premises if they object to the surveillance,” states the guidelines. “Signs should include a contact incase individuals have questions or if they want access to images related to them. Individuals have the right to access images relating to them. When disclosing recordings to individuals who appear in them, the organization must ensure that identifying information about any other individuals on the recordings is not revealed. This can be done with technologies that mask identity.”

Information collected through video surveillance should only be used for the purpose that surveillance is being undertaken or for purposes that are permitted by law.

“There are a number of situations where it may be reasonable to expect video surveillance to take place, for example, for security purposes around banking machines or inside convenience stores in high-crime areas,” says the guidelines. “The video surveillance system should be set up and operated to collect the minimum amount of information to be effective. Sound should not be recorded unless there is a specific need to do so. An organization using a video camera that captures sound needs to consider the Criminal Code provisions dealing with the collection of private communications.”

Further information on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the guidelines for video surveillance is available at 

Further information on Zensurance is available at

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