Use of Video Surveillance in Lithuania (2012)

March 19, 2012

Human Rights Monitoring Institute published a study on video surveillance entitled “The Right to Respect for Private Life: the use of video surveillance in Lithuania”. The study aimed to review and evaluate the use of video surveillance cameras and its legal regulation.

Video surveillance cameras, when used responsibly, may be a helpful tool in dealing with law offences. However, an uncontrolled expansion of video surveillance network and insufficient or inadequate legal regulation pose a threat to the right to privacy.

Since 2005, when HRMI conducted a similar study, considerable improvements can be observed. The Law on Protection of Personal Data now includes a separate section on video surveillance, establishing video surveillance as ultima ratio, i.e. a measure employed only in cases when the aims sought cannot be achieved by means less restrictive of person’s privacy. However, despite the obvious progress, the legal framework is not without shortcomings. Moreover, video surveillance operators often fail to comply with the law.

One of the major issues is the legal regulation of video surveillance installation procedure, requiring merely notification of authorities rather than a permit to conduct surveillance. Such regulation creates preconditions for abuse of surveillance and leaves unlimited discretion to operators to decide on the need to install cameras. Often, operators fail to notify the State Data Protection Inspectorate of the cameras installed. Another major legal gap is the exemption of video surveillance conducted by natural persons from the Law on Data Protection. It was confirmed by the ruling of the administrative court that the law does not apply to natural persons carrying out surveillance for personal purposes only.

The law provides that video surveillance operators have an obligation to notify of video surveillance conducted in the territory or premises in a “clear and appropriate” manner. The information must reach individuals before entering the territory under surveillance. However, the majority of operators either ignore these requirements at all, or implement them in a manner inconsistent with legal provisions.

Having regard to the conclusions of the study, HRMI issued a set of recommendations for legal and policy improvements for the authorities responsible for the implementation of the data protection law.