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‘Ring’ the Alarm: Applying Canada’s Privacy Law Framework to the Disclosure of Private Surveillance

Whitney Evans, Windsor Law Student (JD 2023)


Millions of people rely on smart home security measures to deter theft, but they should understand the possibility that the footage from these tools can be accessed by other parties. For example, in July 2022, the Amazon’s Ring service (“Ring”) raised significant privacy concerns in the United States for Amazon’s ability, through Ring, to disclose private doorbell camera footage to local law enforcement agencies, absent warrant or user consent. Amazon maintains that such disclosure is permissible under American law. Despite these privacy concerns, people still use Ring’s technology because it makes them feel safer in their homes. Notably, in response to concerns that drug addictions led to a proliferation of crime in Windsor, Ontario, Mayor Drew Dilkens once seriously considered forming the inaugural Canadian-Ring partnership. However, such partnership was opposed by privacy scholars and has not apparently proceeded before City Council for consideration to date.


This paper was written for Windsor Law Professor Pascale Chapdelaine’s Privacy Law course in the Fall 2022 term. The paper investigates whether the provision of access to private residential surveillance footage by a Canadian company to local law enforcement agencies, without a warrant or user consent, would comply with federal and Ontario privacy law. In approaching this theoretical scenario, the paper reviews existing scholarship that addresses Canadian privacy law concerns with similar kinds of novel surveillance technology. It then notes Ring’s rise in popularity in the United States that led to its partnership formation with local law enforcement agencies. Next, it canvasses relevant Canadian legislation to determine the obligations of parties in collecting, using, and disclosing Ring footage. Specifically, this paper analyses this hypothetical scenario through the privacy frameworks of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and of the proposed Bill C-27 (Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022), concluding that disclosure to law enforcement in this scenario, without a warrant or the Ring user’s consent, would not comply with either. That being the case, the article turns towards search and seizure jurisprudence engaging section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, finding that this scenario would likely violate the Ring user’s section 8 Charter rights.





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