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Serbian rights group warns of implications in biometric surveillance act

Serbian rights group warns of implications in biometric surveillance act

The nonprofit Share Foundation has published a new position paper warning against the biometric surveillance implications of a draft law on internal affairs proposed by Serbia’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), which is currently in the process of public debate.

“The proposed legislation contains provisions regulating biometric surveillance in public spaces,” the foundation tells Biometric Update.

In particular, article 44 of the proposed legislation defines a system of audio and video surveillance that consists of a set of fixed and mobile cameras and software-hardware solutions with analytical tools. Parts of this system would process biometric data.

Articles 12 and 13, on the other hand, define the storage time of collected data. Video materials would be stored in a central data storage system. Photos with face biometric features would be stored on the same system, but ‘separately’ from the video recordings, for a maximum of 72 hours from their creation.

“The public discussion on the draft laws is open until 31 December. Share Foundation called all interested parties to take a stand against the legalization of mass biometric surveillance during the public discussion,” the nonprofit explains.

Share Foundation also says it opposes the legal proposals in a domestic or international context. The nonprofit’s positions are outlined in a position paper shared with Biometric Update.

In particular, the document says there are six considerations that are not adequately addressed by the bill, making it a bad idea. The group wants mandatory necessity and proportionality assessments, and objects to mass processing, what is says is a violation of the right to privacy and breach of other rights, and is concerned about a history of abuse and mistrust.

“In addition, we are pursuing multiple channels of advocacy and media campaigning,” the organization adds. “Our objective at this point, besides from the legal battle, is to shed light on this issue to the general public and point out weak points and potential danger of introduction of this system.”

The Belgrade (Serbia) Center for Security Policy echoes the Share Foundation’s perspective on the proposed law, according to reporting by the Bosnian news publication Politika.

“The draft law on internal affairs is a ‘made-up’ text of the old draft from September last year,” Bojan Elek, from the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, tells Politika.

“By adopting such solutions, Serbia will get a police force that is not tailored to the citizens, but to the party in power,” claims Elek.

There is concern that the government is not adequately addressing proportionality, a central concept when gauging surveillance’s impact on human rights.

The Professional Association of the Police, on the other hand, welcomes the proposed law. The association has warned against attributing ‘political connotations’ to the proposed law.

The police association emphasizes that facial recognition has long been debated across the EU.

This post was updated at 10:19am Eastern on December 18, 2022 to correct the attribution of the comments from the police association.

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