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Greece: Use of Cameras During Demonstrations Allowed

(Dec. 2, 2007) During the 2004 Olympic Games, the Greek government spent close to €250 million (about US$359 million) to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators and the smooth operation of the games. Part of those funds was allocated to purchase and install 300 closed-circuit cameras. However, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority, which is the nationally designated body to support the privacy and personal data of individuals, voiced strong concerns about the camera use and warned against it on privacy grounds. If the cameras were used, the Authority insisted, it should be with software that makes identification of people's faces difficult. The Authority recently fined the police €3,000 after an investigation revealed that 49 of the cameras installed were not equipped with the required software. It also found that some of the images were kept for more than a week, which is also against the privacy rules. On November 1, 2007, a prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Greece granted authorization to police authorities to use a camera to tape public gatherings and, if criminal acts occur, to use the footage as evidence during court proceedings. The authorization specifically permits police to train closed-circuit cameras on public events including marches, demonstrations, and sports events and to use the footage to identify and prosecute individuals involved in crimes. In his decision, the prosecutor explained that police do not have the authority to confiscate footage created by television crews or individuals who record events through the use of private cameras.

The Minister of Justice justified the prosecutor's decision based on the greater societal interest versus that of the individual. By contrast, the Party of the Radical Left argued that such a decision falls exclusively within the power of the Data Protection Authority. (Greek Daily Explains Supreme Court Decision on Camera Use at Demonstrations, KATHIMERINI [Daily], Nov. 1, 2007, Open Source Center No. EUP20071101430008.)