05/15/2014 11:25 EDT | Updated 07/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Privacy commissioner slams police board's TCH surveillance plan

Ontario’s privacy commissioner sent a representative to a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board on Thursday to voice concerns about police efforts to gain greater access to security camera footage from public housing in the city.

On the table at the meeting was a proposal that would see Toronto police enter into an agreement with TCH, giving them the ability to “routinely” review closed circuit camera footage.  It was the number one recommendation in a city task force report on how to limit violent crime on TCH property.

The task force was led by Coun. Frances Nunziata and Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly.

Steve McCammon, legal council for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, managed to get on the agenda for meeting, and asked that the board “stand down on adopting these recommendations.”

“If [police] can routinely track who’s coming and going and visiting you in your home, and when you’re coming and going and with whom you’re coming and going, they can develop a very detailed aspect of your personal life,” said McCammon.

Police currently have access to security camera footage from TCH, but only if they obtain a warrant first.

Some residents, like Miguel Avila, who lives in a complex at 220 Oak St., have lobbied the board for more cameras in their buildings, but worry police could abuse their access if it goes unchecked.

“The tenants have expressed that they wish to have cameras for their own protection … but for them to monitor us and to keep a close eye on each member of the community, it’s a violation, I feel, from the perspective of the police,” said Avila.

Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian told CBC News that she was “taken aback” that Toronto police had not consulted with her office before putting the proposal on the table Thursday, saying there is a “higher expectation of privacy in residential dwellings than public areas.”

Currently, police have access to closed circuit camera footage from all TTC properties.

“Your home is your castle. Your home is the last bastion of privacy,” Cavoukian said.

“The equation of TTC cameras with cameras in public housing, in my view, is highly erroneous and an alarming oversimplification.”

The Police Services Board has agreed to meet with Cavoukian to discuss the proposal before taking any further action.