Belgrade 'Safe City' video surveillance 

The Belgrade Safe City Programme is a project implemented by Chinese technology company Huawei that involves the installation of facial recognition cameras as part of a wide-ranging surveillance system.

Piloted in 2018 and launched in 2019 with the stated aim of installing 800 real-time cameras with facial and vehicle licence plate recognition, the system was later expanded to over 1,200 cameras.

Operator: Ministry of Interior
Developer: Huawei
Country: Serbia
Sector: Govt - interior; Govt - police
Purpose: Strengthen law enforcement
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Privacy; Legal

Risks and harms 🛑

Belgrade's Safe City system has been criticised for violating privacy and for the legality of its implementation. Concerns have also been expressed about its potential use for government surveillance and Serbia's use of and potential dependency on Chinese technology.

The expansion of the Belgrade Safe City system 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.

Transparency 🙈

Page info
Type: System
Published: March 2022
Last updated: May 2024