In the “what were they thinking” department, Jody Paterson reports in the Tyee that Vancouver’s Opus Hotel is going to remove video monitors placed above the urinals in their men’s washroom.

Since 2002, the hotel has been broadcasting a live feed of customers, from cameras placed in strategic locations around the bar, to these monitors.

Surprisingly, hotel management said that no one had ever complained about the live broadcast of images of some customers giving them business, to other customers doing their business, until a visitor from Victoria identified this as a privacy issue.

As Paterson reports:

The Opus has always gone for a bit of “tongue-in-cheek” and voyeurism, adds [general manager Nicholas] Gandossi, noting that its hotel rooms have windows between the bathrooms and the living rooms.

Earlier on there were similar monitors in the women’s washroom mirror, but those were taken down a few years ago when the monitors broke.

After six months of back and forth with hotel management, on May 3rd of this year, Paul Razzell filed a complaint to BC’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). The Opus Hotel now says they are doing a renovation of the washrooms, and those monitors will be taken down.

So is this legal? Private organizations are governed by the Personal Information Protection Act. Video surveillance can be used to prevent or record a crime, but recorded video has to meet tests “around consent and reasonableness”. Collection, use and disclosure of taping of surveillance video does require notification.

Thus, by not recording the video stream, Opus Hotel’s live feed was legal, and may not have required any notification of video surveillance from the men’s washroom.

This is not 2002 anymore,” says Razzell. “We don’t want to permit things like this to be normalized in our world. If there was ever a time to do the right thing and stop this, now’s the time.””

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