Layne', in December 1994, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner received a compliant that the Vancouver Police Department had taken a decision to block out the faces of those person who were being interviewed by the police in the program, "To Serve and to Protect." The complainant was KF Media Inc., of Vancouver B.C. KF Media Inc. who was the producer of the program, and it generally used media in ride-alongs when the police were doing their jobs of apprehending a suspect. The media would be invited, with the co-operation of certain Police Departments in British Columbia, to join the police, and film the entire action on video. The purpose, as stated by the police, was to allow camera crews to capture police action on camera, live, so that the very reality of the work that the police officers do during the course of their jobs would be made apparent to the public, who watch the program on television, and the way in which the police manage the wide range of both criminal as well as non-criminal activities during the course of their daily lives would be shot and captured on the cameras brought by the ride-alongs, the media. (Investigation Report, Investigation, P 95-004)
When the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia received the complaint from KF Media, and also form various members of the public, it decided to conduct a thorough investigation on why exactly the police were taking media ride alongs with them while performing their duties. The reason why this investigation became even more important was because it raised the issues of the 'Right to Privacy' of an individual, and also the 'access to Information', when seen in the context of the 'Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy Act'. The actual complaint was this: that the Vancouver Police Department was no longer allowing KF Media to reveal the faces of those persons who had been caught on camera during the media ride-alongs that the Police Department had allowed, during the course of performing their duties. KF media claimed that if it were not allowed to reveal faces, then the entire popularity and uniqueness of their show would be lost, and this would result in huge losses for their company.
In addition, claimed the company, when they went on media ride alongs with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP, they were not required to hide the identities and faces of those being shown on their videotapes, so, therefore, why would the Vancouver Police disallow them from revealing identities and faces? Yet another complaint made by KF Media was that the new ride along policy of the Vancouver Police department was both inconsistent as well as contradictory: the British Columbia Television, or the BCTV, had filmed and broadcast a scene where the Vancouver Narcotics Squad issued an arrest warrant for a suspect, and the identities and faces of the suspects were not hidden at all. The Vancouver Police Department responded to all the above complaints by stating that from the time of the implementation of the 'Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy Act in 1994, it had decided that more often than not it was the disadvantaged people who were filmed in media ride alongs, and that the decision to cover the identities of these people was consistent with the Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy Act. (Investigation Report, Investigation, P 95-004)
The Police department concluded that even if the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner thought that the police Department was more stringent than normal while following the Act, it was still not breaching or breaking any rules by hiding the identities of suspects during an arrest. The Police Department's Information and Privacy Coordinator also said that the decision to hide the faces of suspect shad been taken for numerous reasons, some of them being: allowing a video camera to collect footage on suspects, and air them on television, was in fact an unauthorized disclosure of information by the Department, and that the Department would thereafter set certain policies about the protection of the privacy of its citizens, the basic rule being that one cannot release information of a personal nature, to the public, without the specific consent or written permission of the person whose privacy has been invaded, or if it is actually and truly legitimately necessary for law enforcement purposes.
Thereafter, certain regulations were also quoted, and these were: the suspect's face must be blocked out, after all, a face is the person's personal information, and every citizen who has been filmed must not have his face revealed to one and all. In a similar manner, all records of personal information, like for example, the person's name, and location, must be blanked out, and any criminal record that the person may have must also not be disclosed. There can be no entry permitted into the private residence of the suspect, and if a camera were to be allowed, then it can be only in a public place, where the suspect has no expectation of privacy. Therefore, stated the Privacy Coordinator, if the media were to accompany the police during ride alongs, then they must be careful about maintaining the privacy of the suspect in the above mentioned manner, and they must also take all the necessary steps to ensure that the privacy of the person is not invaded for any reason at all. In response to the original complaint made by the KF Media about the police allowing the BCTV to film scenes of an arrest, the Department stated that the BCTV found the police and followed them and took camera shots of the action, without having been invited to do so. (Investigation Report, Investigation, P 95-004) transcript form a Minnesota New Forum asks the question: Who needs a Jury when we have a Free Press? The issue of whether or not a camera could be allowed into a Courtroom when a decision was being made was discussed, and there were some people who felt that allowing a camera in to the courtroom was unobtrusive, while three were some who felt that it was indeed obstructive and obtrusive. The very act of allowing a camera to film the entire court proceedings was also an invasion of privacy, felt some, while some felt that the jurors would be happier if they were able to refresh their memory with scenes of the actual courtroom drama on a camera. One person had this to say, that everyone used to insist on the 'public's right to know', and today, this has become the 'public wants to know', and everyone wants to know everything there is to know about everybody else's business, and this trend has succeeded in invading the privacy rights of everybody. (Who needs a Jury when we have a Free Press?)
It is in fact a matter of ease to set the media and the issue of privacy against each other, the purpose being to emphasis on the differences between them, and at times, to antagonize each other. What happens as a result is that there will be a comfortable reinforcement of certain attitudes, on both sides, that used to exist even earlier. If, however, more attention were to be paid to compatibility, then perhaps the tensions between the two may be erased, at least to a certain extent. In general, it can be said that people often have to sacrifice their right to privacy when they become famous, and if the media were to explore the exact reasons why these people had become famous, then maybe a balance would become possible between whether to disclose or not to disclose anything newsworthy about these people, keeping in mind that everyone on earth needs a little privacy. (Privacy and Media, subtle compatibility, five categories of fame)
One private citizen, named Jason, writes that one of the most demeaning television shows hat he had ever watched was COPS. He says that it was after he had watched that particular show that he actually started to wonder about the state of affairs in the world today, and about the various messages that are being conveyed by such 'reality' shows being aired with regularity on television, during prime time, and how these messages in fact conflict with the expression of public values in law, and about the basic norms and values of society in general. He says that if it were Canada, the media there in that state would not have been allowed to film COPS, and the reason for this is that the various Privacy Commissioners there were more forceful and strict about the privacy laws of their citizens than they were in the United States of America. (Law and Norms, a comment on privacy and COPS)
Therefore, if the privacy and rights of citizens were to be protected and safeguarded, and the values that are inherent in…