Estonian data protection body to review public trail cam resolution

Screenshot from the webcast of the Pirita ski track by SA Eesti Terviserajad.
Screenshot from the webcast of the Pirita ski track by SA Eesti Terviserajad. Source: Camera footage

The Data Protection Inspectorate (AKI) is investigating the surveillance cameras of the Estonian Health Trails (EHT) foundation because they are not properly marked and transmit live video feed at a resolution that permits the identification of trail visitors. This is, however, contrary to the regulations.

The AKI received a complaint about an unmarked public camera installed on the health trail of SA Eesti Terviserajad (EHT).

In addition, the camera's video feed has a high resolution and can be viewed in real time over the internet. In response to the referral, the AKI initiated a Personal Data Protection Act oversight procedure.

"If a public health trail is visible from a security camera, the camera owner must consider whether they have a legitimate interest in filming the area, and if they do, they must post a warning notice before entering the surveillance area. The individual must be informed of the video surveillance operator's identity and contact information, the purpose and legal basis for the video surveillance, and the location of additional information regarding the processing of personal data," Liisa Ojangu, head of supervision at the AKI, explained.

"This requirement arises from the European Court of Justice's ruling that fixed cameras pose a risk of profiling," Ojangu continued.

"If the camera covers a large and highly trafficked area, as a health trail certainly does, the resolution and settings of the camera must be such that identifying the people in the field of view is impossible, or there must be a legitimate interest in capturing the footage in an identifiable form," explained Ojangu.

"At this time, we are unable to comment on whether or not the camera owner will have any obligations as a result of the procedure," she said.

The data protection body issued a warning and a €700 fine for the foundation's failure to respond to two written inquiries from them.

The head of the EHT foundation, Assar Jõepera, said that they did not respond to the inspectorate's letters earlier because the emails were not received. After receiving the letters on Friday, Jõepera said that the foundation is in the process of formulating a response.

Jõepera explained that their webcams have been configured so that sports fans can watch the track in real time. The camera's resolution is comparable to that of surf and beach cameras.

"You might be able to recognize a few of your friends through the webcam, but in general people are not recognizable," Jõepera added.

"It is impossible to get detailed information from it, and we do not collect detailed information from it," he said.

Jõepära said that the AKI's order must be the result of complaints filed by a small number who were nevertheless bothered by the trail camera.

"We will respond to the inspectorate on Friday and hope that the issue is resolved. We will replace the cameras with lower resolution cams if data protection requires it. This decision will not be challenged by the Estonian Health Trails foundation," Jõepera said.

The Estonian Health Trails foundation was established in 2005 by Merko Ehitus, Swedbank and Eesti Energia. It advises on the creation of health tracks nationwide, coordinates development activities, helps finance them and promotes exercise and health through communication and cooperation. Long-term partners of the foundation include the Ministry of Culture and the State Forest Management Center (RMK).


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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