Video surveillance - data protection report

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The EU's Article 29 Working Party on data protection has produced a report on "Video Surveillance". The report sets out guidelines under the 1995 Directive on data protection in relation to surveillance by video cameras in public and work places.

The report says that:

"The over-proliferation of image acquisition systems in public and private areas should not result in placing unjustified restrictions on citizens’ rights and fundamental freedoms; otherwise, citizens might be actually compelled to undergo disproportionate data collection procedures which would make them massively identifiable in a number of public and private places."

The Working Party expresses concern at developments which are in the pipeline where video surveillance is coupled with other data systems (for example, a database using facial recognition). It singles out the development of:

"software applications based both on facial recognition and the study and forecasting of the imaged human behaviour from leading inconsiderately to dynamic-preventive surveillance – as opposed to the conventional static surveillance, which is aimed mostly at documenting specific events and their authors. This new form of surveillance is based on the automated acquisition of the facial traits of individuals as well as their “abnormal” conduct in association with the availability of automated alerts and prompts, which possibly entail discrimination dangers."

In a democratic society:

"Data subjects have the right to exercise their freedom of movement without undergoing excessive psychological conditioning as regards their movement and conduct as well as without being the subject of detailed monitoring such as to allow tracking their movement and/or triggering “alarms” based on software that automatically “interprets” an individual’s supposedly suspicious conduct without any human intervention - on account of the disproportionate application of video surveillance by several entities in a number of public and/or publicly accessible premises."

Opinion 4/2004, WP 89, on the Processing of personal data by means of Video Surveillance (pdf)

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