Video surveillance in 7 Yukon schools collecting too much info on students, says privacy watchdog

The common area at F.H. Collins High School in Whitehorse, June 3, 2019. (Chris Windeyer/CBC - image credit)
The common area at F.H. Collins High School in Whitehorse, June 3, 2019. (Chris Windeyer/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon's information and privacy watchdog says the Department of Education need to immediately stop using video surveillance in schools to collect personal information about students, and securely destroy any such information it has already collected.

Diane McLeod-McKay, who was the territory's information and privacy commissioner until July 2022, issued the recommendations in a June 14 report, which was publicly released Nov. 16. McLeod-McKay is now Alberta's information and privacy commissioner.

The education department has rejected all her recommendations.

McLeod-McKay found the department isn't authorized to collect personal information through video surveillance. She also found the department is collecting too much information, in violation of its own video surveillance policy, and cameras were in multipurpose rooms, sports facilities and pointed at bathroom entrances.

McLeod-McKay said her office received a complaint in February about the use of video surveillance in a Yukon school. She decided to launch an investigation in part because of the sensitive information being collected and the fact that the information was about children.

As she investigated, she learned the department was using that technology in seven schools: F.H. Collins Secondary School, Vanier Catholic Secondary School, Ghùch Tlâ Community School, Porter Creek Secondary School, École Whitehorse Elementary School, École Émilie Tremblay and Centre scolaire secondaire communautaire Paul-Émile Mercier.

The range of students at those schools run from kindergartners to Grade 12 students, depending on the school. Some schools use video surveillance only outside, while others — such as F.H. Collins, which has 67 cameras — use it both indoors and outdoors.

According to the report, the department says video surveillance is necessary to deter vandalism and identify possible suspects, to record bullying or threatening behaviour, and to deter forced entry to the schools.

McLeod-McKay said the department should consult with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner if it decides to use video surveillance again.