Malta 'Safe City' video surveillance

Occurred: 2019-

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The government of Malta said it would terminate a plan with Chinese technology company Huawei to install a facial recognition system in Paceville and Marsa - so-called 'problem areas' of the island. The project hit the headlines after it was accused of being unjustified, and due to Huawei's controversial reputation. The brainchild of disgraced former Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, it was also seen as tainted with cronyism.

Plans for 'Safe City Malta' first emerged in 2016, when Huawei announced an agreement with the Maltese authorities. In 2018, Malta-based United Nations’ data protection rapporteur Professor Joseph Cannataci met with Safe City Malta director Joe Cuschieri to express his concerns about privacy and the system's potential for 'nationwide deployment'.

In 2019, European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova responded to a letter from then prospective European Parliament candidate Michael Briguglio asking questions about the system by recommending that the Safe City project undergo a data protection impact assessment in order to comply with EU law. 

In June 2023, investigative publisher The Shift reported that the government had renewed its Safe City board, calling into question its pledge to shut down the project. 

Operator: Malta Strategic Partnership Projects
Developer: Huawei
Country: Malta
Sector: Govt - municipal; Govt - police
Purpose: Strengthen law enforcement
Technology: Facial recognition; Computer vision; Machine learning
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Corruption/fraud; Necessity/proportionality; Privacy; Surveillance; Scope creep/normalisation
Transparency: Governance; Privacy