Civil liberties watchdog criticizes Vancouver’s Olympic security camera plan

Dimitris Gourgourakis is certainly not a familiar name to most Vancouverites.

Gourgourakis used to head the Greek government’s privacy watchdog, the Data Protection Authority, until he quit in November 2007.

Together with his deputy and two other members of the authority, Gourgourakis stepped down in protest of the use of traffic cameras to monitor demonstrations.

The cameras were originally used as part of the more than $1 billion in security spending for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Micheal Vonn, policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, couldn’t remember the former Greek privacy boss’s name but she recalled this turn of events following the Vancouver city council’s decision to seek funding for a closed-circuit television system for the 2010 Olympics.

As laid out in the staff report that was approved by council on March 26, the cameras are only temporary.

But according to Vonn, there may be a sleight-of-hand trick here.

The city is requesting $435,161.181 from the province for the infrastructure component of the CCTV system, which will be spent on the city’s Emergency Operations Centre.

The city will also seek $2.1 million from the RCMP-commanded Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit for the procurement and installation of cameras.

“So they have a permanent control centre for ”˜temporary cameras’—that makes no sense whatsoever,” Vonn told the Straight.

“Are those cameras going away when were making a major infrastructure investment in supporting them? No, we say,” Vonn added.

Referring to the Greek experience, Vonn claimed that the cameras were supposed to be temporary but they ended up becoming permanent fixtures.

COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth voted against the temporary cameras.

“I think city council is committed that they’re temporary,” Woodsworth told the Straight. “It’s a question of making sure that we get them removed.”

Woodsworth added that she’s against having a CCTV system because this can be used to “violate people’s right to freely walk around the city without Big Brother watching them”.