Porter Airlines has apologized after an employee told passengers to delete videos of an altercation or face arrest.
On Friday, some Toronto-bound passengers at Boston Logan International Airport started recording an exchange with a Porter employee after they waited hours to get information about a cancelled flight.
The employee told the passengers to stop recording and delete the video or else they would be arrested. Many of the travellers agreed to delete their videos out of fear of repercussions.
But the passengers had every right to record and keep the video on their phone, according to a lawyer.
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“If you’re allowed to record law enforcement in public, you can record an airline employee,” criminal defence lawyer Jordan Donich, said.
“But people are trying to suppress video and content for obvious reasons, like unwanted disclosure and bad PR.”
Porter Airlines told Global News that it does not have any policy that would prevent people from taking video at the airport unless it affects “safety or personal comfort of others on board.”
There is no law in Canada or the U.S. that prevents a person from taking pictures or video in a public place. And an airport or an airplane is a public place, Donich said.
But of course, there are limitations.
What are the rules when recording in public?
“Generally, you’re pretty much free to record anyone at any time,” Donich said.
“It seems intrusive to the individual being recorded but this is something people have to accept as the world becomes less private.”
Recording in public becomes a problem when it turns into harassment, he added. It also becomes illegal if it’s being recorded for a sexual purpose as this is voyeurism.
Businesses or establishments, such as a courthouse, can also have policies in place that prohibit recordings. But the policy has to be in place and they must notify the public that recording is not allowed, Donich said.
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In terms of recording a cellphone video in an airport, you probably won’t be able to whip out your phone in “secure” locations, such as a place that stores luggage, seized goods or prohibited items.
“But there will be notices in place for these,” Donich said.
What if police ask you to delete a video?
There is no law in Canada that prohibits people from openly photographing or videotaping police as long as you are not obstructing justice, Donich said.
Police also cannot seize your phone or tell you to delete your video or images as this is an infringement of your Charter rights.
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According to a 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, police can conduct a limited search of a suspect’s cellphone without a warrant, but they must abide by strict rules (you must be arrested and searching your phone must be incidental to the arrest).