Report Back on Usage

Report Back on Usage

Government agencies should be transparent about how they use surveillance technology and its effectiveness.

A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.

Dalai Lama

Is it working?  Are the rules being followed? Is it worth it? 

While compulsory, independent audits of both program performance and potential policy violations are important, they are less effective if the results are not shared with the public.  Regularly published reports should inform communities as to whether the technologies surveilling them are achieving their public safety purposes and whether policies and civil liberties protections are being followed. Knowing that audit results will be public can provide incentive for government agencies to carefully follow policies and regulations. 

Transparency also helps with the long-term maintenance and evaluation of a surveillance system.  If problems arise, residents and their elected representatives need to be made aware of new threats to public safety or risks to civil liberties so they can quickly and effectively address problems.

Examples of Use

  • Location:: 
    Hamilton, Ontario
    Police violate video surveillance guidelines for years

    During a pilot project in 2003, police in the Canadian city of Hamilton promised to be “compliant in every respect” with video surveillance guidelines issued by Ontario’s privacy commissioner.  The project has since been expanded, but controls over the program have not been maintained.  The department has violated procedures covering how long video footage is retained, has failed to comply with audit requirements, and has not published reports to the public that assess the need for and effectiveness of surveillance cameras.  The department claims that it stopped keeping statistics on effectiveness in 2010, but after the Hamilton Spectator exposed the violations, police have once again begun to make public reports to the city’s police board.