Belgrade 'Safe City' video surveillance
Serbia's Ministry of Interior has unlawfully installed over 1,200 Huawei real-time facial recognition CCTV cameras across Belgrade, according to reports in WIRED and other media outlets.
Piloted in 2018 and launched in 2019 with the stated aim of installing 800 cameras with facial and vehicle licence plate recognition, the expansion marks a major expansion of the Chinese company's 'Safe City' security programme with the Serbian city.
The expansion has led to accusations of covert surveillance and opacity by human rights and privacy activists, EU members of parliament, and members of the general public. It also resulted in #hiljadekamera, a grassroots campaign led by Serbian digital rights organisation SHARE Foundation.
The system was the subject of a review by Serbia's data privacy commissioner, who in 2019 found that the Ministry of Interior's Data Protection Impact Assessment had not been conducted in line with Serbian national law, arguing 'there is no legal basis for [its] implementation'.
At the time, Serbia had no data privacy law. The country's Personal Data Protection Law went into effect in August 2019.
According to Privacy International, Serbia's Ministry of Interior reputedly insists all information about the system is 'confidential' and that it holds no information on locations and crime rate analysis for the city.
The Ministry is also said (pdf) to have been routinely blocking freedom of information (FOIA) requests for information on the location and workings of the cameras and system.
Meantime, a Huawei case study about a secret 2017 test of the system in Belgrade was removed from its website.
Operator: Ministry of Interior
Sector: Govt - interior; Govt - police
Purpose: Strengthen law enforcement
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Privacy; Legal
Share Foundation (2021). hiljade.kamera documentary
Metamorphis Foundation (2020). Documentary exposes the threat of facial recognition surveillance in Serbia
Privacy International (2020). “Thousands of Cameras” - a citizen response to mass biometric surveillance
Share Foundation (2019). Unlawful video surveillance with face recognition in Belgrade
Share Foundation (2019). Serbian government is implementing unlawful video surveillance with face recognition in Belgrade (pdf)
Share Foundation (2019). Procene uticaja obrade na zaštitu podataka o ličnosti korišćenjem sistema video nadzora Ministarstva unutrašnjih poslova (pdf)
Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (2019). The Commissioner's opinion on the act of the Ministry of Internal Affairs - Assessment of the impact of processing on the protection of personal data using the video surveillance system
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Published: March 2022