Data protection ombudsman issues guidelines for video-surveillance

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On 20 May 2004, the Italian data protection ombudsman issued guidelines for the installing of surveillance cameras. Before setting up the video-surveillance systems, there must be an assessment of whether the measure is proportional to the objectives that are pursued, and whether alternative measures (alarms or other forms of checks) would be inadequate or impossible to put in place. Cameras whose recordings allow the identification of individuals can only be used if there is an actual need to identify the people in question, that is, if the purpose of the surveillance cannot be achieved by collecting anonymous data. People passing through an area where video-surveillance is carried out, must be informed of this, of who is responsible for the surveillance, and of what its purpose is. If the images are recorded, they must only be stored for a limited period: a few hours, or 24 hours at the most, unless an extension in this period is required to pursue investigations; specific businesses that are subject to particular threats, such as banks, may be allowed to store images for a longer period, but it must never be longer than a week. The installing of video-surveillance systems whose recorded images will be cross-referenced with other data such as biometrics or voice recognition, or digitalised to be used alongside technology to examine physical features, such as face recognition systems, will be subject to a preliminary assessment by the ombudsman. The creation of databases is to be strictly limited when it is sufficient to install a CCTV system that is only for viewing, without a need to record images.

Public authorities may only carry out video-surveillance activities if these are necessary to fulfil their institutional functions, in areas that fall within their competencies; the ombudsman notes that some local council authorities have taken the initiative of unduly installing them for public security reasons, or to prevent and investigate criminal activity, when these are areas that fall within the competencies of the judiciary or police forces. If an administration's competencies include the maintenance of public safety and crime prevention, the use of video-surveillance systems must nonetheless be a "proportionate" response to an "actual necessity" to prevent or counter concrete threats. The wholesale video-surveillance of entire areas in a city is not allowed. The presence of cameras on some public transport vehicles, religious or burial sites is to be allowed, subject to certain guidelines, but video-surveillance systems must not be used for the supervision of minor offences (such as smoking bans, prohibitions of walking on the grass, etc.).

In the case of private use, the use of video-surveillance systems must either be indispensable to comply with legal requirements, or to defend a legitimate interest to protect people and property against aggressions, theft, vandalism, robberies, fire safety, etc. Video-surveillance in developments with multiple owners (such as a block of flats owned by different persons, or a group of neighbouring houses) is allowed to avoid dangerous situations arising for the safety of persons and to protect property. Individual private subjects installing cameras must ensure that the angle of the cameras exclusively affects the area affecting their own property, without capturing images from communal areas, or those affecting their neighbours. The surveillance of workers by their employers is "absolutely forbidden" in their workplace or in other places where they carry out their work, and cameras cannot be installed in places that are not destined for work (such as bathrooms, changing rooms etc.). In hospitals, the use of cameras is allowed in specific departments, whose recordings are only to be viewed by authorised medical staff and relatives of the patients. In schools, the installing of video-surveillance systems is only allowed if it is strictly necessary, for instance to counter vandali

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