Doc. 9869

9 July 2003

Video surveillance of public areas

Motion for a recommendation

presented by Mr Bindig and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.       In many Council of Europe countries, public places are being monitored to an increasing extent by video cameras (closed circuit television cameras, CCTVs). This is intended, on the one hand, to counteract a rising crime rate in some areas and, on the other, to respond to a declining sense of security in the general public. However, the use of this technology should be suggested to careful assessment.

2.       Studies carried out in the United Kingdom by the Scottish Centre for Criminology and the University of Hull cast considerable doubt on the effectiveness of video surveillance. There are doubts that the use of this technology as a deterrent and a means of increasing the chances of convicting offenders after the fact actually lowers crime rates. A study needs to be carried out to determine whether or not video surveillance does not simply result in crimes being committed in different locations. Video surveillance can only give people a sense of security and serve as a means of crime prevention if rapid and effective assistance is provided on the spot when a criminal offence is observed.

3.       The increasing use of this technology has increased fears in many people of an Orwellian state. These fears go hand in hand with the very real danger of misuse of the technology by observers. Studies carried out by government-independent organisations have shown that these cameras often show a preference for minority groups without there being any particular justification for this. Often women are watched for voyeuristic reasons by (for the most part) male security personnel.

4.       Progress in technology has made it possible to assess recorded data more and more specifically with regard to a given person. Today fully automatic identification systems can be created by making use of zoom and digital imaging technologies as well as links with other digital databases. In the public debate being conducted on this matter in Germany reference is recurrently made to the danger of a possible restriction of the right to self-determination with regard to information (Article 1, paragraph 1 and Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Basic Law) as well as to fundamental reservations with regard to data protection. In Denmark the response to reservations of this kind was a general ban on video surveillance. Other countries such as Spain have passed legislation on the video surveillance of public areas.

5.       The Parliamentary Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers call upon member states:

i. to initiate studies aimed at analysing and comparing the merits of the subjective needs of the people for security, on the one hand, and their fears of being placed under public surveillance, on the other;

ii. to analyse in detail the relationship between individual rights and the preservation, of constitutional order in connection with video surveillance of public areas;

iii. to assess the actual effectiveness of video surveillance and to compare it with other possible tools for crime prevention and criminal prosecution;

iv. to create clear provisions of law counteracting an uncontrolled spread of video surveillance;

v. to guarantee transparent and democratic use of video surveillance in public areas;

vi. to permit and promote public control of the use of this technology and the use of the material accumulated with it;

vii. to define clear provisions of law on the ways in which this kind of data is to be recorded, stored and used.

Signed 1:

Bindig, Germany, SOC

Agramunt, Spain, EPP/CD

Cilevičs, Latvia, SOC

Guardans, Spain, LDR

Jonas, Germany, SOC

Judd, United Kingdom, SOC

Jurgens, Netherlands, SOC

McNamara, United Kingdom, SOC

Riester, Germany, SOC

Russell-Johnston, United Kingdom, LDR

Wohlwend, Liechtenstein, EPP/CD

1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group