We exercise our right of access to information and our freedom of expression within the context of individual rights. One of these is the right to privacy.
In situations involving personal suffering and pain, we balance the public’s right to know against individual human dignity.
We disclose information of a private nature only when the subject matter is of public interest.
Without limiting the meaning of public interest, we work in the public interest when we reveal information that helps our audience make decisions about matters of public debate and when we expose illegal activity, anti-social behavior, corruption, abuse of trust, negligence and incompetence, or a situation that poses a risk to the health and safety of others.
Some aspects of privacy are protected in law. It varies from province to province or territory; federal statutes cover some areas.
CBC journalists must be familiar with the legal aspects of privacy or, when unsure, seek legal guidance.
Use of Private Correspondence
We do not reveal the content of private correspondence not addressed to us (e-mails, letters or voice mail) unless it is in the public interest to publish the information. We must make every effort to verify that the information is accurate. We allow the person or institution affected to comment on the information we propose to reveal.
Where there may be legal considerations, journalists should seek legal advice.
A decision to publish private correspondence requires authorization from the Director.
We understand and respect private property. We should be aware of the legal issues of violating private space and seek advice when unsure. The definition of private space is not the same in every province and territory.
We usually do not enter private space without obtaining permission from those with authority to provide it.
This is different from observing or recording events taking place on private property from a public space. But, we weigh the value and importance of doing so against the principles of privacy as laid out in this section.
Sometimes new technologies change the way journalists are able to gather images and information.
Use of these technologies generally does not change the way we interpret our standards and practices.
One such example is the use of drones. Images captured by cameras attached to drones may violate the principle of respect for privacy. Any capture or dissemination of material involving this principle should be assessed against the public interest in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy standards elsewhere in this document.
Where appropriate, we may also refer to provisions for Clandestine Methods.
We should be aware of legal regulations concerning the use of drones.
Intercepting Conference Calls
We respect the privacy of individuals, groups and organizations when they conduct conversations via conference calls.
As a rule, we do not attempt to hack in, or listen in without being openly invited to participate in a conference call. However, if a participant on the call offers to share the information after the fact, the principles on our treatment of sources would guide our use of the material.
We may consider listening in or recording without the knowledge of all the participants, if all the following conditions have been met:
- We have been given access to the conference call with the consent of at least one participant to the call;
- We have credible information indicating the likelihood of illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust;
- We are confident that an open attempt to gather the information sought would fail;
- The information sought would be useful evidence for a demonstration of illegal or antisocial activity or abuse of trust;
- We have sought prior authorization from the Director.
If the conference call was recorded, the use of the recording on air or on line is subject to the conditions set in Hidden Cameras and Microphones - Justification of Publication of Material Gathered.
Identification of Accident and Crime Victims
If police have not released the identity of a person who has died as a result of an accident or a crime, we refrain from publishing this information until we have confirmed it. If the immediate family has not been notified, we consider the public interest before identifying the victim.
Accompanying a Police Patrol
We sometimes accompany police officers on patrol or in a police operation. Our goal is to inform the public about the way those responsible for law enforcement ensure public safety and administer justice. Law enforcement officers are called upon to intervene in situations where physical violence may occur. They are also required to collect evidence that could incriminate or exonerate an accused at trial.
Our presence on a police patrol carries a risk of confusion between the active roles played by law officers in their work and our role as observers. In our job we gather facts to report to the public, not evidence for the administration of justice.
There are things officers of the law can do in the course of their duties that we cannot. We would run the risk of trespassing on private property or invading privacy. We do not have the same entry privileges as police officers. Unless we have been directly invited or authorized by the owner or occupant of the premises, we will act with respect for their privacy.
Before agreeing to accompany law officers in their work, we ensure that the limits to our involvement are clearly stated. We take care to assess all the risks arising from our presence in the company of law officers and will refer the final decision to take part in this type of operation to the Managing Editor, in consultation with the Law Department.
We clearly advise the audience of the limits imposed on us as observers of the facts and take care to respect the privacy and the presumption of innocence of anyone featured in this kind of police reporting.
Children and Social Media
We take care to protect the privacy of children involved in the use of social media.
We are especially careful to assess the impacts when dealing with those aged 15 and under, who may lack the judgment required to consent to interviews and publication of their information.
We avoid providing information that could identify them because this puts them at risk from online predators.
When contacting children through their Facebook or other public sites, we follow the standards set for children’s participation applicable to all other platforms.