N.L. privacy commissioner calls cameras in rental home 'incredibly unsettling'

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Access to information requests overwhelming staff, says privacy commissioner

Newfoundland and Labrador's privacy commissioner says tenants who recently discovered hidden cameras in their St. John's rental house may have had their privacy violated.

"I can't think of any more egregious way for your personal privacy to be breached, than to have cameras in your home, unbeknownst to you," Donovan Molloy told CBC News.

"It had to be incredibly — and I'm sure it continues to be — incredibly unsettling for her and the other lady that was residing in the house."

In February, Rachel Tribble, 21, originally from Nova Scotia, and her roommate discovered an elaborate system of cameras inside their rental property — including cameras in their bedrooms.

Tribble said the cameras were hooked up to video and audio cables, that connected to a recording device in the attic.

Police have seized equipment from the home. Their investigation is ongoing.

Homeowner Kevin Vokey previously told CBC News that the system was installed for personal security while he was living there.

He and the property management company, Metro Property Management, maintained that it was an internal system, with no external access outside of the home, and that footage from the system was never streamed.

Neither Vokey nor Metro responded to emailed requests for comment from CBC News about the privacy commissioner's remarks.

Privacy Act provisions

Molloy said the police investigation will determine who is ultimately responsible, as well as if someone had the ability to monitor the video and audio from the house, either on a past, current, or future basis.

In general terms, he noted that the province's Privacy Act prohibits "surveillance, auditory or visual, whether or not accomplished by trespass, of an individual, by any means including eavesdropping, watching, spying, harassing or following" without consent.

If someone violates your privacy, Molloy said, you have a right to bring court action against that person without having to prove any damages, under the act.

"There's also a separate tort that's called 'intrusion upon seclusion,' that's been recognized in this province as an actionable tort," he said.

A tort is something that causes harm to someone but is not a crime, and is instead dealt with as a civil matter.

Molloy said he has never spoken with Tribble, but indicated he would "highly recommend" that she seek her own legal advice.