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12/9/2010
Canada: City Officials Remain Secretive About Photo Ticket Program
Winnipeg, Canada refuses to disclose basic information about its photo enforcement program.

Todd Dube
A watchdog group last week filed a complaint with Canada's privacy commissioner and the Manitoba Ombudsman's Office over the city of Winnipeg's refusal to release data about its photo enforcement efforts. Over the past five months, WiseUpWinnipeg had filed three separate requests for basic information under under a freedom of information law known as FIPPA, but city officials have refused to comply.

In the US, copies of the contracts under which for-profit red light camera and speed camera operators partner with municipalities are widely available. In August, Winnipeg officials refused to disclose the terms of its arrangement with Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) on the grounds that doing so would "negatively prejudice or harm" the competitive position of ACS and "interfere with future contractual negotiations." WiseUpWinnipeg wants to see the contract because, according to the city auditor, ACS was effectively handed a sole-source contract.

In September, the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) denied the group's request for the "black box" data from red light camera tickets that gives the time, date, location, yellow time, time-into-red and other key information about specific violations. The request was denied on the grounds that "the requested records are in the custody and under the control of ACS Public Sector Solutions Inc... The WPS does not have the ability to retrieve the information." WiseUpWinnipeg co-founder Todd Dube found that curious because he had previously received copies of tickets from the Manitoba Provincial Court and the 2006 city document laying out the bid requirement for the photo enforcement program stated citation photographs will remain property of the city.

"Our position legally is that ACS is not authorized to control and handle personal information and we will be challenging their authority to possess that information under the Privacy Act," Dube said in a statement.

Winnipeg has stated it uses mobile photo radar to protect children in so-called playground zones. Officials in November declined to release a list of the zones claiming the records are not available.

"Declaring that playground zone location records do not exist, while they have been enforcing in playground zones, is preposterous," Dube said. "A specific location code is required to be included in the data/black box display of each violation issued. Clearly, the black box data is the smoking gun that ACS does not want the public to see."



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