Tallinn has 800 public surveillance cameras and counting
Tallinn currently has 800 CCTV cameras installed for traffic monitoring or security purposes. The number of cameras continues to rise.
Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Police Major Aivar Krupp said that there are currently 800 surveillance cameras located in public spaces in Tallinn, which are used weekly to monitor crime statistics.
The local government decides whether to install surveillance cameras based on the number of reported crimes in a given area. Temporary security cameras are also installed in advance of major events
Krupp said that the benefits of cameras for detecting criminal activity are substantial and, compared to previous years, their number has increased.
However, Krupp added, only authorized police staff have access to camera data, which means that not every officer can view public camera recordings.
"The PPA has now developed regulations outlining how to install a camera in a public place and the legal basis for doing so. Citizens have the right to file a complaint with the Data Protection Inspectorate (Andmekaitse Inspektsioon or AKI) if they have concerns about any particular camera in a public place, and so we can always review the location of the camera, its relevance and the security it provides with the data protection inspectorate," Krupp explained.
Kadri Levand, a lawyer at AKI said that the question of the cameras' legality is one of the most frequently asked: people regularly contact the data protection inspectorate to verify whether or not the camera that is bothering them was legally installed.
There are also public webcams that anyone who is interested can access. For instance, the ilm.ee website provides live weather coverage from major cities and beaches.
As these cameras are not meant to deter crime, the visual quality of the recording should not be so high that individuals could be identified. However, Levand said, there is no law that specifies exactly how sharp a picture could be.
"Each surveillance point maintains logs and when a crime occurs officers can access video footage. The resolution of the law enforcement camera must be, however, sufficient for a person to be identified."
A discussion has started also in Estonia about whether cameras breach the right to privacy. Levand said that Estonia is gradually developing surveillance culture.
"Yes. I would say that I, too, believe we are moving [toward a culture of surveillance]. There isn't much of a way back any longer. Perhaps future generations' attitudes and thoughts will change, but for the time being we are on this path. It hasn't been a pleasant development for us either. It's still a tremendous growth [in surveillance] simply because everyone has a camera installed somewhere. We don't even talk about the state as much anymore as every individual now also thinks she or he needs to install a camera."
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Editor: Kristina Kersa