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The HFHR reviews draft legislative guidelines on video surveillance

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has submitted a review of draft premises of a law on video surveillance. The draft, prepared by the Ministry of the Interior at the end of 2013, has been supported by the HFHR. It was noted in the review that surveillance “is a tool that may interfere with the right to privacy and therefore it is essential from the perspective of civil rights and freedoms to put in place a proper legal framework governing its functioning”.

“The applicable law fails to define explicitly the rights of citizens exposed to surveillance, or impose clear obligations and restrictions on the agencies that use this method. At the same time, cameras are becoming an increasingly common element of the public landscape. They are installed in workplaces as well. This creates a risk of abuse, which the new law is meant to mitigate”, says Dorota Głowacka, HFHR lawyer.

The HFHR positively reviewed the Ministry’s proposals. They include, among other things, supervision of surveillance conducted by both private and public bodies, introduction of detailed requirements regarding the disclosure obligation imposed on surveillance systems administrators, or mandatory public consultation preceding the installation or further development of video surveillance systems operating, for instance, in urban areas.

Simultaneously, the HFHR noted certain issues that may raise objections. “It is crucial that the law on video surveillance introduced such safeguards that would discourage the use of visual surveillance methods in situations where they are unnecessary or fail to serve a reasonable purpose, creating only a false sense of security”, said Ms Głowacka. For the above reason, the HFHR highlighted in its review that the draft law did not contain sufficient control mechanisms ensuring an appropriate application of video surveillance, or solutions enabling citizens to seek a remedy if any inadequacies are identified.

In addition, the HFHR noted that the ministerial proposals allow too wide access to video records for the law enforcement and other public services, which may lead to abuses of their entitlements. Another shortcoming is a failure to set out rules governing access of third parties, including media, to surveillance recordings. Also, the draft law does not address such issues as the equipping of surveillance systems with facial recognition capabilities, which is an additional threat to privacy.

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