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Ombudsman finds that the collection, use and disclosure of passenger’s images from taxicab cameras is in compliance with FIPPA

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Apr 30, 2003

The Manitoba Ombudsman has concluded that the collection, use, and disclosure of digital images from taxicab camera is authorized and limited to the amount reasonably necessary under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

“It is our view that the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in the form of digital images by the Taxicab Board would be necessary, effective, and proportional to the intrusion into an individual’s privacy in terms of enhancing drivers’ safety,” said Ombudsman Barry Tuckett.

“Based on our review, the Board has also made reasonable arrangements for the retention and security of the personal information. Accordingly, it is our opinion that all these measures comply with the provisions of FIPPA.”

The examination of video surveillance in taxicabs was undertaken in response to privacy concerns raised publicly.

The investigation ranged over several key personal information privacy protection principles incorporated into FIPPA: collection, use, disclosure, and retention practices, and the security measures in place to safeguard the information against unauthorized access.


The Board may require taxicab owners to furnish adequate, safe, sanitary, and proper taxicab service under The Taxicab Act. The installation of in-car cameras is authorized under a regulation to the Act.

There was clear evidence that taxicab drivers face a significant risk of physical injury or even death in carrying out their duties. The Board was of the view that many potential assailants would be deterred from harming drivers if they knew that they could be identified from pictures taken by in-car cameras. There also seemed to be no real alternative of a less privacy-intrusive nature than the use of cameras. The Board indicated that while a number of additional measures had been implemented to enhance driver safety, including safety shields, none of the measures could be used for the purpose of identification.

In light of the seriousness of the need to protect drivers, the effectiveness of identification as a deterrent in this instance, and the lack of other measures to provide identification, the Ombudsman found that the collection was related and necessary to enhancing driver safety.

The Board installed the cameras to collect “one good picture” of any passenger reasonably suspected of committing a crime against a taxicab driver. The specifications and operation of the video camera system in place supported a conclusion that the Board is not collecting more images than is reasonably necessary for identification purposes.

“In my opinion,” said Barry Tuckett, “drivers and the general public benefit from the deterrence effect and identification of individuals alleged to have committed crimes against taxicab drivers. The substantial benefits of collection of this personal information to drivers and the general public is in reasonable proportion to the loss of privacy suffered by all passengers.”

Use or Disclosure

The Board uses passengers’ pictures only for the purpose of investigating complaints to the Board, and would disclose their images only for the purpose of identifying alleged assailants to enhance drivers’ safety. If the police provided a warrant for personal information, the Board would be authorized to disclose the information under FIPPA.

If a passenger does not make a complaint, no personal information would be used. If no alleged crime is reported, no passenger information is disclosed. If an alleged crime is reported to the police, the Board only discloses passenger images related to the alleged incident. Accordingly, the Board’s use and disclosure of personal information would be limited to the amount reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose of enhancing drivers’ safety.

Personal Information Retention

The Board has a written policy concerning the retention and destruction of the information: if passengers’ images are collected and used by the Board, or disclosed to the police, the information would be retained only until all the levels of appeal have been exhausted. This complies with the retention requirements under FIPPA.


Review of the security measures and the procedures followed by the Board support a finding that it has made reasonable security arrangements to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure or destruction.

“I would like to acknowledge that the staff of the Taxicab Board was very cooperative and had already given consideration to many of the personal information protection issues raised by this safety initiative,” said Mr. Tuckett.