Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vancouver Olympics security raises privacy concerns

While the Vancouver 2010 Olympics have come under criticism for rapidly inflating costs, federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is sounding the alarm about security plans for the winter event.

“Experience has shown that Olympic Games and other mega-events can leave a troubling legacy – large-scale, security surveillance systems installed for mega-events often remain long after the event is over,” she says. What happened following the Athens Games of 2004 is a case in point. Closed-circuit cameras installed for the Games were left in place afterwards to help law enforcement monitor citizens, notably during public demonstrations.

British Columbia’s privacy commissioner, David Loukadelis said last year that he had been assured by the RCMP the images from those cameras will be available only to key people. While using extraordinary measures to keep diplomats and athletes safe is reasonable for a special event he is concerned that once the Games are over, those cameras might remain and become a unreasonable infringement on everyday privacy rights.

Just as in Athens, following the Olympics in Sydney, many closed-circuit TV cameras were left in place after the Games.

Both Stoddart and Loukadelis have discussed security and privacy issues for the Games and will collaborate in monitoring security measures and privacy protections, in order to ensure that privacy rights are fully respected during the Games and after.