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What price privacy when cctv is about?

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Dearbhail McDonald (Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Independent) has brought my attention to a press release issued yesterday by the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (the ‘Venice Commission‘, an organ of the Council of Europe) about its recent Opinion on Video Surveillance in Public Places by Public Authorities and the Protection of Human Rights. From the press release:

The Venice Commission concluded that the practice is a threat to the fundamental rights to respect for private life and freedom of movement and touches on specific issues of protection of the personal data gathered in this way.

While public security imperatives may exist, it invited the member states to take steps to:

  • systematically indicate the zones being filmed;
  • set up an independent body, at national level, to guarantee the lawfulness of such installations, in line with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the international texts governing the gathering and protection of data.

Two recent posts (here and here) by TJ put the pressing need for such protection into focus. And yet, a fortnight ago, (hot on the heels of a similar development in February) the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, announced major developments in the provision of CCTV systems. From that press release:

[The] announcement includes:

  • 17 new Garda CCTV systems are to be installed and operational by the end of this year bringing the total number of systems in operation to 26;
  • Grant aid of 1 million Euro approved for 11 additional local community groups for the installation of CCTV systems under the Community Based CCTV Scheme bringing the total number of such grants provided to date to 24; and
  • Details of an innovative scheme to provide capital funding for CCTV schemes in housing schemes occupied by older persons. This initiative will operate on a pilot basis initially and will involve a total of 12 schemes with a combination of Local Authority and Irish Council for Social Housing nominated projects with a rural and urban mix as well as projects from RAPID areas.

Noble sentiments. But not a word in the press release about the necessity to roll out concommitant protections in parallel (though, admittedly, there is a Code of Practice for Community-based CCTV systems (pdf)). Nor is there yet a response on the Department of Justice’s website to the Venice Commission’s Opinion. Funny that.

Note (30 July 2007): The Department of Justice rebuilt its website in the Summer of 2007 and all of the material is at different locations; but I think I’ve rebuilt all the links in the above post.

3 Responses to “What price privacy when cctv is about?”

  1. Eoin says:

    For an example of the kinds of possible abuses, against which there need to be protections, see R v Hardy (Attorney General’s Reference (No 1 of 2007) (Attorney General’s Reference (No 1 of 2007)) (Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, 7 March 2007) reported in The Times (12 April 2007) under the law report headnote:

    Police officers had to realise that accessing the police national computer for an improper purpose was an offence that required an immediate prison sentence.

  2. Eoin says:

    The Department approved over €225,000 in grant funding for community CCTV in May; whilst the most recent stage of the Department’s policy (the Minister’s speech is here) is discussed on DRI’s blog here, arguing again that safeguards are needed for such cctv systems.

  3. […] about a world where our privacy is invaded – not so much by state surveillance or corporate cctv, which we all now recognise, tolerate, even accept (so the helmet cams are little more than […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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