New Stauffer webcam monitors construction

Camera doesn’t violate privacy laws, Queen’s counsel says

The webcam installed on top of Stauffer Library will remain in place until spring 2008.
The webcam installed on top of Stauffer Library will remain in place until spring 2008.

A new webcam has been installed on the top of Stauffer Library overlooking the revitalization project of University Avenue. The camera provides a live feed of the construction and its images are readily accessible on the Queen’s website 24 hours a day.

Physical Plant Services installed the webcam Oct. 26. It will remain in place until spring 2008, when landscaping of University Avenue is expected to be completed.

The project, which was originally supposed to be finished by Oct. 31, is now set to be completed by the end of November.

Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance) had the idea of installing a webcam to monitor construction after looking at the website for Cambridge University in England.

“You can look at the progress of their construction,” he said. “I thought it was a really cool idea.”

Physical Plant Services installed the webcam.

Campus Security Director David Patterson said the camera isn’t for security surveillance purposes and is in place to provide an updated overview of the improvements made on University Avenue.

“The webcam is not a security monitor and the images are not recorded,” he said.

There are recording systems on campus, but not overlooking University Avenue from Stauffer Library, Patterson said.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are installed in the Campus Bookstore, Botterell Hall, Goodes Hall, Duncan McArthur Hall, the IT Services Department in Dupuis Hall and in the underground parking lot across from Kingston General Hospital.

The webcam at Stauffer Library is far enough away from the street to ensure that student faces aren’t visible, therefore individuals can’t be identified.

Diane Kelly, Queen’s legal counsel, said according to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which determines the types of monitoring systems that violate privacy, the webcam is legal.

“Since there is no one identifiable in the footage, there is no violation of the legislation,” she said.

She said there’s a difference between placing cameras in public and private spaces.

“If you are in a public space, expectations of privacy are significantly diminished.”

Physical Plant Services Construction Director Jacques Sauve said the webcam was installed to monitor construction.

“We just had to put it up so we could visually keep an eye on the project,” he said.

Robert Thom, ArtSci ’11, said he doesn’t understand the purpose of the webcam above Stauffer Library.

“The ability for Queen’s students to monitor the construction seems pointless since we see the changes on campus daily.” Mackenzie Dixon, Sci ’11 and a Kingston native, says the camera is most beneficial for those who aren’t exposed to Queen’s construction daily.

“For current students, its use is redundant, but for alumni or city residents curious as to the progress of Queen’s revitalization, it’s a useful tool.”

—With files from Erin Flegg and Jane Switzer

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