In to the soon to be implemented

In recent years the gardaí has proposed toexpand its surveillance by increasing the use of the CCTV system, so it has thecapacity to not only record images and sounds but recognise faces throughbiometric technology as well. If you are captured on a CCTV, those images andrecordings are considered to be your personal data under the provisions of theData Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 (‘the DP Acts’), in addition to the soon tobe implemented General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’). Personal data whichI had failed to mention would refer to the information that you leave behind asit is not made or generated.  Traditionally, it was unlawful to use recordingmechanisms to obtain an individual’s personal data without their knowledge.

Upuntil now, CCTV systems were connected without a second thought to theconsequences. However, in order to comply with the Acts and the GDPR the datacontrollers (i.e. the gardaí) using CCTV systems need to justify obtaining andusing the people’s personal data. Subsequently, the gardaí takes the view thatthe CCTV’s are being used as a response to prevent and detect criminalactivity, which is considered to an appropriate measure and less of an invasionof privacy. This is then said to be reinforced under section 7 of Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009,as it allows upholds the use of “surveillance devices.” However, it isimportant to note that this section requires judicial authorisation,1not just for audio bugs but convert video cameras planted in properties aswell.

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Personally, I do not agree with that proportionality test, as it does nottake those who not criminals into consideration. On balance, I think then theinterest of privacy would be the appropriate measure. The indication is that CCTV’s assist in thereduction of crime, however, in practice no crime needs to be committed to beunder surveillance; not even reasonable suspicion is necessary. I couldcomprehend having surveillance done on criminals but not the everydayhard-working person. I take the view of Charles Farrier of the No CCTV campaigngroup, that “CCTV cameras are not effective at solving crime;”2 atbest I would say that they are good at tracking down individuals; which is alsoin itself an infringement on privacy.  I questioned fellow UCC students and they hadthe same thought process as I did. There is nothing wrong with the gardaí doingsurveillance on criminals, but the idea of the gardaí surveying the averagecitizen just seems wrong, unjust and ridiculous.

The idea that the average hardcitizen should have to give up his rights, especially those that allow usprivacy, seem inherently wrong.  Manytyrants have justified limiting the rights of its citizens for their own safetyand greater good, and as we all know have historically led to monstrous acts.  I nevergave CCTV camera’s a second thought, but the more I learned about our rights todata protection, I came to comprehend “that such schemes “come with certainnegative connotations, principal amongst them concerns that they result inunnecessary levels of surveillance and intrusion on the privacy of individualsand society – a so-called ‘Big Brother’ effect”.

“3 Subsequently, it has been stipulated that “morethan 1000,000 licence plates are scanned by gardaí every day as part of acrackdown on untaxed, uninsured or stolen vehicles.”4 Ilearned that majority of the gardaí vehicles, marked or unmarked contain theANPR system which provides the gardaí with names and addresses, which recordsand stores every motorist’s personal data. It is recording their whereabouts, whethera crime is or is not committed. In addition, the ANPR system is not justattached to the gardaí vehicles, but to roadside cameras as well.

While theANPR system provides the gardaí with extreme powers of surveillance, it alsoproves to be an infringement of privacy. An infringement that became moreevident when I learned that the personal data that the ANPR system collects is storedfor five years.  Subsequently, Section 2(1)(c) of the DP Actsprovides that a data controller should not preserve personal data for no longerthan is necessary. To hold personal data for five years is very disproportionate,as well as, unnecessary. Especially for personal data that is collected and notconnected to any low-level crime or counter terrorism. For the 8 years that Ihave been driving I never realised that my personal data is probably maintainedin a database that can be accessed by other authorities, even though I havenever done any criminal to even warrant suspicion.  Likewise, the gardaí hopes to begin its facialrecognition with biometrics system to identify people on the CCTV system. It isbelieved to go forward without any legal foundation, taking an approach that isconflicting to the data protection law.

Thus, once again the right to privacyis considered to be an inconvenient barrier rather than a fundamental right. Icomprehended this as the gardaí thinking they know best, while the publicconcern is being overlooked.  I believe that our fundamental rights shouldnot be considered when a system is already being applied, rather it must betaken into account at the outset. As citizens, we should feel assured that ourpersonal data is not being accessed or interfered with, especially withoutcause.  In all cases that do not involvecriminal activity, our personal data should remain personal unless explicitconsent is given.

In addition, it concerns me that there is no judicialoversight to ensure that our fundamental rights are being preserved. Technologyevolves every day, the government, private corporations, and the gardaí moreenhanced tools to circumvent your right to privacy and access to your everyday life.The courts reluctance to uphold the right to privacy in cases of surveillanceby the gardaí is unambiguously problematic. This reflection has opened my eyeson how important it is to protect our personal data. In fact, going forward, Ihope to be more aware of my actions and surrounding in order to avoid anymisinterpretation by the gardaí surveillance   1 Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 at section 5.

2 E. Edwards and K. Harris, Does Blanket CCTV Coverage Really Provide Security? (16 November2017) The Irish Times(date accessed: 11 December 2017).

3 Ibid.4 C. O’Keeffe, 100,000Licence Plates Scanned Each Day (10 April 2010) Irish Examiner

com/ireland/icrime/100000-licence-plates-scanned-each-day-116920.html>(date accessed: 11 December 2017). 


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