CCTV cameras off then on again

The government is set to submit to Parliament a bill that would allow police to use more than 1,000 CCTV cameras to collect evidence on potential criminals, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The Interior and Justice ministries have agreed that new rules on the use of surveillance cameras should be added as an amendment to a draft law currently being examined by a parliamentary committee. The amendment would allow police to use some 1,100 CCTV cameras without the heavy restrictions that are now in place. Chief among these is that a prosecutor would no longer need to be present when the cameras are switched on. Currently, if police make extensive use of surveillance cameras but do not have the approval of a prosecutor, they have to inform the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD), which has tended to have a negative view of the use of CCTV. The independent body’s position on the issue even led to its president and five members quitting their posts in November 2007, when the police used cameras to monitor an annual November 17 march marking the 1973 student uprising. Greece spent some 250 million euros on the surveillance package for the Athens Olympics in 2004, part of which was used to purchase and install some 300 CCTV cameras. But the cameras were not used following the Games due to the intervention of the privacy watchdog, the APPD, which deemed that they breached privacy rights. In November 2007, the Supreme Court decided to allow police to position closed-circuit cameras for public gatherings, such as protest marches and sports events, and then to use any incriminating videotape evidence to identify and prosecute those who have committed crimes. However, police were instructed that a prosecutor had to be present during the filming and that officers did not have the right to confiscate footage from television crews or passers-by for the purpose of using it as evidence in court.

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