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Toronto man raises privacy concerns after dealership employee turns off his dashcams – twice

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A Toronto man is speaking out after an employee at his car dealership turned off his dashboard video camera twice while working on his vehicle, and now he’s warning others their devices may be tampered with without their knowledge. 

Haider Firas, 24, took his car to Parkview BMW this past November. Firas has a camera pointing out to capture video of other vehicles and one pointing inside his car to protect his property.

The mechanic was captured on the video noticing the cameras and turning them both off.

“Well that kind of raises a flag,” Firas told CBC Toronto. 

“Why did he do that? Now I don’t know what happened to my car for that time being. It’s under their control now. They could do anything, they could speed off with it, they could have damages done to it, I don’t know.”

Unsatisfied with Parkview BMW’s response after an employee there turned off his dashcam video, Haider Firas went to the media to alert others to what he says could be an industry-wide problem. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Dashcam data deleted on 2nd visit

Firas said he complained to the dealership, but decided to take his car back to the same company a couple of weeks later.

Not only did the employee turn off his recording devices the second time, but that time the employee also deleted the videos on the file, Firas said.

“This is raising a concern with privacy because I have my family in my car and we have conversations. [The employee] actually had to go through footage to find their own footage to delete and this is a 100 per cent no-no, like you can’t access people’s private information to get rid of your own footage.”

Firas also uploads his videos to YouTube, and said they are particularly valuable to him for that reason. 

Firas recorded a phone conversation between himself and the dealership’s director of fixed operations.

The director at the dealership said some employees are not comfortable being watched without their knowledge and argued it is common practice in the trade.

“I don’t think it’s ok for you to disconnect the camera without asking the owner’s permission,” Firas tells the director on the recording.

The two dashcam video recorders in Haider Firas’s vehicle were both turned off by an employee at his dealership. He also says they deleted files on the second occasion. (Chris Glover/CBC)

“For example, if I have a house and I hire contractors to come work in my house … and they disconnect my cameras, … you can’t do that, because I’m recording for my safety for my property. It’s the same thing. It’s my car, you’re not allowed to disconnect it without permission.”

Parkview BMW’s general manager did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment.

Other dealerships weigh in: ‘We don’t touch them’ 

Art Safonov, the parts manager at Volkswagen MidTown Toronto, said at their facility it’s policy not to touch an owner’s property without contacting them first.

“If the technician does decide that they want it off, we would notify the customer that it is going to be turned off … because we are totally transparent,” Safonov said.

“Generally, we don’t touch them; there’s no reason to touch it,” he added.

“But is it standard across the board? I have no idea. From dealer to dealer it may vary.”

Over at Lakeside Motors, owner Mike Colangelo said his shop hasn’t encountered the situation yet, but suggested it would be best to let the owner know.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tell the customer, because if anything happens … they’d say it happened while the camera was off,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a grey area. I don’t know what the logistics are around this. You could go both ways. You’d almost need to be a lawyer.”

Potential privacy violation by employee, not Firas, lawyer says 

Privacy lawyer Alice Tseng says in Canada privacy violations pertain to entities such as businesses or governments, not private individuals or consumers.

She doesn’t think it was against the law for Firas to record the employee, or for the employee to stop the recording.

But she says the situation could be problematic for the employee.

“If the employee just stopped it and no more I don’t see a privacy issue,” Tseng said.

“If the employee deleted files, I don’t think it’s a privacy issue, but I do think the consumer could have some sort of recourse, because you can’t just damage other people’s property or delete other people’s property,” she added.

“To the extent that the employee actually had to access or watch any past files, that could be a privacy violation.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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