Creep catchers are not legitimate journalists performing investigative functions, their online opinions about people violate an individual’s privacy under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) and every aspect of their creep catcher-type operations are illegal, according to B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner’s findings released earlier this week.
The B.C. Privacy Commissioner has ordered Surrey Creep Catchers (SCC) to stop posting information about the two complainants who went to the commission for help and that they must destroy their videos of the individuals. If SCC doesn’t comply they could face fines of up to $100,000 and criminal charges. SCC has until Sept. 6 to comply with the commissioner’s order.
Here in Alberta, Carl Young, who goes by the alias of Carl Murphy, was charged criminally December 2016 for his creep catching activities when he targeted a Lacombe man. (See links to related stories below.) Young’s trial is set for Aug. 22 in Red Deer Provincial Court.
Drew McArthur, BC’s Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner, rejected SCC’s argument that its members are journalists. Under PIPA, journalists are exempt and allowed to collect personal information.
“The Organization simply reproduces the chats and videos without adding any meaningful commentary or analysis, but rather only brief and cursory statements,” the Commissioner said in his report.
The Commissioner pointed out that “While all journalism may be a form of expression, not all expression is journalism.
“The Organization posted videos of the Complainants and other information about them, but this does not automatically constitute journalism.
“The Organization’s true purpose in collecting, using and disclosing personal information is to ‘name and shame’ those whom it considers to be creeps, rather than to offer a journalistic perspective on the issue.
“The purpose of the exercise is to entrap individuals whom the Organization believes are attempting to lure a minor and to publicly denounce them. The Organization’s activities here are essentially intended to subject the Complainants to ‘threats, ridicule, and derision.’”
And, “Because the Organization sells merchandise, both at fundraisers and through a ‘store’ on its website, it qualifies as a commercial enterprise.”
In addition, the Commissioner said that creep catchers didn’t have reasonable belief that the two complainants had been, or would become, involved in criminal activities and the creep catchers’ activities don’t meet the definition of ‘investigation.’
“The Organization did not already have a basis for thinking that either Complainant had lured, or would lure, a child, given that the Organization did not even know them. The Organization’s broad targeting, or fishing expedition, falls outside of the definition of ‘investigation’ in PIPA.”
Online opinions violate privacy
The privacy commissioner also ruled that creep catchers violate a person’s privacy under PIPA when they post opinions and information about their targets.
PIPA Act is across Canada. It came into effect in B.C. and in Alberta in 2004 and aims to protect one’s personal information.
Under PIPA, individuals can be fined up to $10,000 and organizations can be fined up to $100,000 and be prosecuted in court.
SCC president told his followers on Facebook that he wouldn’t comply with the ruling and wouldn’t take down the videos.
Although creep catcher stings across Canada have resulted in a few criminal charges against individuals, their methods have been criticized.
– Blackfalds LIFE