Camera law irks privacy watchdog

Greece’s privacy watchdog yesterday slammed an amendment, recently passed in Parliament, which paves the way for authorities to use surveillance cameras without restrictions, saying that it provides no safeguards governing how personal data will be handled. The Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD) has been locked in a dispute with the government and the police since the 2004 Olympic Games over the suitable use of CCTV cameras and yesterday issued a statement condemning the amendment as being unconstitutional and not in line with European Union legislation. The law effectively removes an across-the-board protection of privacy rights afforded to Greek citizens by the Constitution, especially in the case of audiovisual recording equipment. The APPD argues that the amendment seeks to exclude surveillance cameras from the law that places severe restrictions on the methods that police can use to monitor suspects without requiring authorities to warn people that they are being recorded. According to the watchdog, the change in the law also leaves «the processing of personal data by authorities totally unregulated» and does not provide for limits on the actions of public bodies. The APPD expressed concern that the law does not create any guidelines for when or how the cameras should be used and provides no guarantees that the information gathered by authorities will not be misused. The authority is also upset that the new law essentially freezes it out of the process. Until now, the APPD has intervened to block police from using CCTV cameras for anything other than monitoring traffic.