NEWS

CCTV appeal raises protests

As the Public Order Ministry prepares to defend in court its appeal for closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to be used to spy on potential terrorist suspects, the Athens Bar Association yesterday condemned the government for disrespecting citizens’ right to privacy. The goverment is contesting an August ruling by the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD), which said some 300 surveillance cameras installed as part of the 1-billion-euro security program for the Athens Olympics could not be used to monitor sites deemed to be high-risk terrorist targets. In its appeal to the Council of State, the Public Order Ministry says that the APPD’s decision is unconstitutional, arguing that national safety and public order rank above the protection of citizens’ privacy. Lawyers representing the government claim that the cameras would help avert would-be criminals as well as gather information to help crack down on terrorism and cite the example of London, where the abundance of cameras helped track the movements of the suspects in last summer’s London bombings, both the deadly bombings of July 7 and the aborted attempts later that month. France has placed 200 cameras in areas of «heightened risk» and to protect public buildings. The government’s lawyers also say that the cameras would not be set up in areas that would encroach upon citizens’ privacy and that, in any case, privacy cannot be said to extent to public spaces. The Athens Bar Association countered those arguments by saying that «the operation of surveillance systems directly opposes constitutionally enshrined civil liberties.» It claimed that the cameras were capable of recording incidents in detail and with sound, and called for them to be removed from operation. The state privacy watchdog has permitted the operation of 350 surveillance cameras, but only for monitoring traffic. Another 1,000 or so of the cameras used in Athens’s Olympic security drive remain under lock and key.