Prague conference on responsible use of CCTV organised by the Czech Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with Efus

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How can cities make the best use of CCTV while at the same time guaranteeing individual rights and freedom, particularly in terms of data protection? This was the main theme of the conference organised on February 18, 2011, in Prague (Czech Republic) by the crime prevention department of the Czech Ministry of the Interior, in partnership with Efus. The date had been chosen to coincide with the trade fair on security equipments Pragoalarm/Pragosec, which took place in the Czech capital from February 17 to February 19.

The Interior Ministry had invited around 70 representatives from various cities and regions of the country to discuss issues of data protection. Efus presented its project “Citizens, cities and video surveillance” and the Charter for a democratic use of video surveillance (http://cctvcharter.eu/). Two Efus members and project partners, the cities of Rotterdam and Brno, presented their experience, and explained why they had signed the Charter.

The representatives of the Czech Office for personal data protection, Dr Miroslava Matusova , expressed her satisfaction with the Interior Ministry’s decision to hold the conference. She also voiced her support for Efus initiative in favour of a responsible use of CCTV, stressing the importance of data protection. She said that much efforts had already been made to guarantee protection, but that much remained to be done.

The Czech Republic has heavily invested in video surveillance since 1996, with 173 cities being now equipped thanks in large part to state funding. Public financing is still available to cities wishing to install a CCTV system. However, the official in charge of CCTV at the Interior Ministry, Tomas Konicek, said that public financing depends on the type of system chosen by applicants, and in particular the guarantees it offers in terms of data protection. “Keep in mind these issues,” he said. “They are necessary when designing your system and when applying for national funds.”

Indeed, the guidelines for applicants issued by the Czech Interior Ministry go beyond the guarantees required by law. For instance, cities must submit a thorough analysis of their security issues, demonstrate why they deem CCTV necessary, and detail for which purpose.

The conference also focused on the overall efficiency of video surveillance, with many speakers stressing that it is not a “magic bullet”, but merely a tool among others. There was a unanimous consensus on the importance of taking into account the human factor, and of accompanying any CCTV system with a coherent set of preventive measures.

The experience of the cities of Brno, Sokolov, Zlin (Czech Republic), and Bratislava (Slovakia) were presented, raising other issues such as citizens’ participation in prevention schemes, technical requirements, CCTV operators’ training, and follow-up procedures when an incident is detected.

Efus is confident that this conference will encourage more Czech cities and regions to join their European counterparts who have already signed the Charter for a responsible use of video surveillance.

All the documents of the conference will be available shortly for download at this link to the Czech  Interior Ministry’s website.