Entertainment Law

Author: Christina Bulbrook

On June 6, 2016, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released its Report of Findings in connection with a complaint filed by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association regarding the television series entitled “Border Security: Canada’s Front Line”.

The Privacy Commissioner considered whether the Canada Border Services Agency, a federal agency, violated the Privacy Act due to its participation in the series, stemming from a 2013 incident in which a migrant construction worker was filmed while being detained during a job site investigation by CBSA officers. The Privacy Act governs the collection, use and disclosure of individuals’ personal information by Canadian government agencies and departments.

The incident was filmed by the series’ production company, but the footage did not ultimately appear in the completed program. Nonetheless, the Privacy Commissioner considered the complaint with regard to CBSA’s actions, including the following:

  • was CBSA’s participation in the program, and allowing the producer of the series access to the activities of its officers and controlled areas, an unauthorized disclosure of personal information under the Privacy Act;
  • were the CBSA Filming Guidelines sufficiently stringent with respect to the producer obtaining full and informed consent of individuals to be filmed; and
  • is “blurring”, and obscuring other identifiable details for individuals who had not provided written consent to be filmed, sufficient under the circumstances to comply with the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Commissioner ultimately recommended that the CBSA cease its participation in the TV program, and that it undertake a formal privacy impact assessment before participating in initiatives involving disclosure of personal information in the future.

In light of these findings, Producers who are contemplating a television program involving a Canadian government agency or department will need to take into consideration the length and cost of undertaking such a formal privacy impact assessment before committing to any significant development.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. If you are interested in receiving additional details on the topic above or advice about specific circumstances, please contact MEP Business Counsel at 604-669-1119.