Security cameras can be used to process personal data

Use of security camera footage must comply with the GDPR.
Use of security camera footage must comply with the GDPR. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

Personal data from security camera recordings can be used for the purpose of ensuring public order if there is a legal basis for doing so.

According to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which entered into application in the EU this May, security cameras installed in public spaces can be used to process personal data if there is a prerequisite legal basis to do so, ERR's radio news reported on Friday.

Every data processor interested in using cameras must from now on analyse which listed legal basis can be invoked and adpot a decision regarding the location of the camera to be installed accordingly.

For nearly ten years, security cameras have been installed in public spaces in the city of Tartu in cooperation between the police and the city government. Currently there are altogether just over 30, most of which are located in the city centre, but according to Ottomar Virk, operational chief of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) South Prefecture, the first steps have been taken toward ensuring order with the help of security cameras in other parts of the city as well.

"Every year, we consider together with the city again the system's maintenance and modernisation, because cameras develop very quickly," he explained. "Occasionally some cameras have to be replaced, but we are constantly also looking for new positions, and we employ cameras with very powerful optical zoom so that even smaller details are indentifiable enough."

Security footage used by police daily

According to Virk, security cameras are used extensively by law enforcement officers on a daily basis, and all police who need information caught by the cameras in order to do their job can constantly use both live feeds as well as recordings.

"We are not just talking about the control centre, who is constantly monitoring [the cameras] live; we are talking rather about criminal police and other units as well," he added.

As such, the activities and movement of someone walking in Tartu city centre essentially are not private. While according the GDPR, permission should be needed to photograph or film someone in a public space, Virk nontheless finds that no one's privacy is at risk.

"And certainly no one has to worry that now they might end up in the field of vision of a [security] camera, because these images are in fact being processed by specific police officers, and for one definite reason only — to prevent crime or catch a criminal," he concluded.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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