Supreme Court Decision – Data on Budapest’s CCTV Is to Be Made Public

The important lesson in this case is that even though hundreds of cameras are monitoring our lives day and night, the police still do not have any evidence backing up the effectiveness of the CCTV in crime prevention. At least the Supreme Court, in it’s decision, has given back a piece of our right to personal privacy by making public when and where CCTVs are watching, thus we will be less at the mercy of those watching us. On the basis of public interest data, it will be easier to judge the price we have to pay for the promise of public safety.

On March 28th, 2007 the Supreme Court in an exraordinary remedy proceeding ruled in favor of the right to freedom of information and self determination. The HCLU filed suit against the Budapest Police Headquarters, since they have denied access to data about CCTV. The HCLU have enquired from the police about the placing, operating, effectiveness and economic aspects of the CCTV, but were denied access to maps on location of the cameras and were also denied access to the contracts between the district police headquarters and local governments relating to the operation of the CCTV.

In 2006 HCLU has already won the lawsuit, but the Budapest Police Headquarters had appealed for a special legal redress. The Supreme Court after re-examining the decision stated that the police has the obligation to notify the public with regard to where exactly cameras are operating and cannot deny this information citing crime prevention intrests. The court has also ruled that the police contracts regarding the CCTV also have to be made public.

The Supreme Court has changed it’s previous final decision on a few points. Accordingly, the police do not have to issue new statistics and studies on the impact, since in the course of the proceeding it came to light, that besides those few statistics, until 2004 no other statistics and studies of impact have been made on the CCTV. Moreover, the police also do not have the obligation to make public their development conceptions.

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