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Watchdog against cameras November 2, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Police & Crime.
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Lawyers and privacy watchdog the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD) expressed their opposition yesterday to a decision by a senior prosecutor to allow police to film violent street protests with traffic cameras, saying the move is non-binding and unnecessary.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas gave police the green light to film protesters and use the footage as court evidence if criminal acts are conducted during the gatherings. The decision allows police to position closed-circuit cameras at public gatherings, such as protest marches and sports events, and then to use any incriminating videotape to identify and prosecute those caught on film committing crimes.

The APPD defended its right to rule against the decison and said that it is not limited by the judiciary. “Our decision is applicable and binding. Any violation is subject to penalties,” it said.

The APPD recently fined police 3,000 euros after finding that 49 of its cameras still do not operate with software that blurs people’s faces. The watchdog also found that images from some of the cameras were also kept for more than seven days, thereby breaking privacy rules.

Meanwhile, lawyers also criticized the decision, saying violent acts can be punished without having to resort to electronic records being kept on demonstrators. “Security and freedom are rights that are compatible,” said Dimitris Paxinos, president of the Athens Bar Association.

The government appears to be in favor of the decision after Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said there needs to be a balance between personal rights and the interests of society.

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