Data protection authority has misgivings about cameras at the coast
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Data protection authority has misgivings about cameras at the coast

© Visit Flanders

Belgium’s data protection authority has expressed doubts about the legality of a plan to install 250 cameras at coastal resorts to keep track of visitor numbers.

The authority, formerly known as the privacy commission, said in a press release that it had found out about the plan from the press. Based on that information, the authority has a number of questions.

The cameras are ostensibly in place only to keep track of the numbers of people on the seafront and in busy shopping streets, to ensure that distancing can be maintained.

The authority, however, wants to find out how the cameras work, and whether they are also able to identify the people in shot, or can be adapted to do so.

Have those operating the cameras carried out an impact assessment?’ asks the authority. “This kind of assessment would seems to be necessary for monitoring the masses in a public space using electronic equipment. An impact assessment can assess whether data processing is too risky for the rights and freedoms of individuals and what measures can be taken to limit the risks.”

And on the question of proportionality: is the counting of the mass of people using cameras the most effective and least intrusive way of counting?

The authority now intends to demand to interview the parties concerned to find an answer to these and any other questions.

At first glance, this project seems to us to pose an increased risk to individuals,” said David Stevens, president of the authority. “It is our duty as a Data Protection Authority to take a closer look at this initiative.”

The Data Protection Authority explained its procedure.

When the Authority suspects that a process of which it has been informed constitutes a potential risk to citizens’ rights in the field of data protection, it initiates a three-step procedure. The first step is an informal contact where the Authority asks various questions to gain a better understanding of the data process and any guarantee that the body in charge has introduced. It is that first step that the Authority is now taking as part of this project to install smart cameras for counting tourists at the coast.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times