Privacy concerns raised over Calgary parking enforcement proposal

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Privacy concerns raised over Calgary parking enforcement proposal

Privacy advocates say Calgary city councillors should be asking more questions about a plan to use photo enforcement in residential parking permit zones.

The Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) wants to move to a digitized system for registering license plates in residential parking zones, so it can use its camera-equipped cars for patrolling.

It argues the system would be more efficient, but some residents are concerned about their privacy.

"I think we're looking at George Orwell's [novel] '1984' right in the eye here. 'Big Brother' is watching you," said Kensington homeowner Lee Tasker, who is part of a letter-writing campaign against the parking authority's proposal.

Tasker says she's concerned about residents having to register their visitors' license plate information online.

"Once that's in their data bank, how they use it and who they disclose it to is beyond our control," said Tasker.

The transportation committee recently voted to send the parking authority's plan to council for final approval.

The Privacy and Access Council of Canada is urging council to take a hard look at what will happen with data collected with the license plate scanning technology.

In a letter submitted to city council, President Sharon Polsky says allowing photo enforcement and electronic permitting is "premature and ill-considered".

"For convenience and revenue-generation hands down, no question, it's very convenient," said Polsky, but the plan raises big questions for her. "What is the risk to your privacy and mine if this system goes ahead?"

Coun. Druh Farrell says she's hearing from a good number of residents who have concerns about the proposal.

"I would like to take a bit more time for consultation," Farrell said. "And then perhaps test it with a pilot."

But others on council aren't as concerned about privacy issues.

"If there was detailed information about the visitors, then I would say yes, they have something to be concerned about. But the only requirement there is for a license plate and the duration of the stay," said Coun. Andre Chabot.

"The concept is good from an operational perspective, because it will improve efficiencies, by virtue of somebody not having to get out of their vehicle and physically write a ticket."

The CPA issues about 34,000 permits to people who live in residential parking zones.

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