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          • Year: 2019
          • Public Recording with Secret Cameras

          • BCSP researcher Sasa DJordjevic wrote about the details of the acquisition and setting up of a large number of security cameras throughout Belgrade which should be made clear to citizens.

        • Serbian citizens still don’t know almost anything about the project that is making wonders thanks to the commitment and energy of Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, as Police Director Vladimir Rebic recently explained. The reason is simple. All documents on the acquisition and set up of 1000 cameras for recognition of persons and license plates on over 800 locations in Belgrade were labelled “classified” by the Ministry of Interior. The reason is prevention of possible damage to state interests.

           

          The list of unknown things about video surveillance that can hurt Serbia if publicly disclosed is long. The location on which video cameras will be set up is unknown. It’s unclear who in the police will gather, process and use this data. It isn’t explained how the confidentiality and security of this data will be protected from attack and theft or the accountability of data gatherers if they make a mistake.

           

          Public isn’t aware how will the police guarantee that the camera is recording only the space necessary for the security of citizens and not something else, for example someone’s apartment. It’s unknown whether the cameras will be able to track citizens while they walk, run or drive. It isn’t revealed whether the police have considered all other ways for controlling a certain space, which would be less invasive to the people’s privacy. All of this should be known in advance, before the cameras are set up.

           

          Moreover, it seems that the Ministry of Interior hasn’t precisely determined 800 locations in Belgrade on which the cameras will be set up in any official document, which is contrary to the statements of police officials. Police Director said that the future locations of stationary cameras already known and that before they were determined “a notable questioning and analysis of events, primarily criminal acts on the Belgrade city territory, was conducted”. 

           

          Additionally, Ministry of Interior didn’t determine how will the collecting and processing of personal data via the announced video surveillance affect the personal data protection, while the Police Director was at the same time promising to the citizens they shouldn’t be concerned about their privacy. Logically, the question arises what is the basis for this promise and whether it is even trustworthy.

           

          It turned out in the end that Huawei knows a lot more about video surveillance in Belgrade than its citizens who are paying for this company to install cameras across the city together with Ministry of Interior. But the content about Serbia’s cooperation with Huawei was quickly taken down from the company’s official website just a couple hours after Share Foundation published an analysis focused on what Huawei knows about these cameras.

           

          If it’s any comfort, Serbian citizens can now at least be sure that Huawei, company that has for a last couple of years been accused by USA and several European countries for corporate and political espionage in cooperation with Chinese authorities, acts fast when it matters. However, that doesn’t lift suspicion from the true intentions of Ministry of Interior, because for now, only certain thing is that they intend to constantly track our behaviour.

           

          Perhaps someone will think that officials didn’t have enough time to explain to the people the reason behind smart video surveillance. Still, that isn’t true because conversation on that subject started 8 years ago, and intensified in 2014 when the Memorandum of Understanding that relates to steps in video surveillance realization, was signed. That year Nebojsa Stefanovic became the Minister of Interior.

           

          Three years later, the Ministry of Interior concluded a strategic partnership agreement on the introduction of the "Safe City" video surveillance system with Huawei. The Government of the Republic of Serbia, by its conclusion, gave accordance to this agreement, so that funds from the budget could be used to fulfil the contractual obligations for the purchase of a video surveillance system based on the capital project "Video surveillance in traffic - Phase II".

           

          The situation would have been better if, at least during the past five years, the Ministry of the Interior, together with the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, assessed the introduction of video surveillance and eliminated all dilemmas regarding its impact on the privacy of citizens. Civil society could have been a partner, provided public consultations were planned. Privacy protection was not mentioned until the public asked how the Ministry would keep personal data of citizens.

           

          The situation can still be corrected if and when it is determined which video surveillance equipment is being purchased, how much it costs the citizens of Serbia, where it is placed and how the personal data will be processed and protected. If it’s easier, this information can also be published by Huawei. There are independent state institutions, organizations and individuals who will try to bring this topic closer to citizens. Of course, it would be better for the Ministry of the Interior to do it.

           

          The analysis was originally published on Pescanik in Serbian.

          Translated by BCSP intern Pavle Nedic.

        • Tags: surveillance, Ministry of interior, personal data protection, Sasa Djordjevic
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