A mass surveillance project is set to launch in Paceville by the end of the year, after Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi confirmed that the control room which will oversee the ‘Safe City’ project has been completed.
“The control room is ready and I visited it a few weeks ago,” Mizzi said during an interview on Dissett on 27th March. “I hope that it will be fully operational by the end of the year.”
After it is implemented in Paceville, the Safe City project will be expanded to Marsa and Birżebbuġa.
Lovin Malta has repeatedly contacted Mizzi and Safe City Malta director Joseph Cuschieri to find out where this control room is located but has not received a response as of the time of writing.
Mizzi also confirmed that the surveillance technology will no longer be designed exclusively by Chinese tech giant Huawei but that the providers will be chosen following a tender process. He did not state whether this change in plan was due to concerns repeatedly voiced by the United States that Huawei’s networking equipment could be used for espionage by the Chinese government.
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Although Huawei has pledged it would never allow Beijing to get its hands on its customer data, Chinese law obliges organisations to “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work”.
Mizzi confirmed that the control room, which will be full of screens linking to cameras on the street, will be manned by the police. Officers watching the screens will instantly relay incidents of crime to police on the beat via handheld devices, which will allow officers to watch crimes right after they occur and therefore to immediately identify perpetrators.
The control room staffers will be assisted by technology in the cameras which will alert them as soon as they detect notable changes in activity in streets.
The USA has warned that Huawei’s technology could be used for espionage by the Chinese government
Just as Google Traffic can alert drivers to traffic jams by using GPS-determined phone locations to analyse the speed of other drivers, so too will this technology cause an alarm as soon as it detects clear noise changes. The control room staffers will then analyse the screen and instantly alert the police via their handheld devices if the alert was sparked by a crime.
Mizzi played down privacy concerns by noting that the original plan to install the cameras with facial recognition technology has been scrapped and that Cuschieri has agreed on “a set of boundaries” with the police and the Data Commissioner.
Following concerns raised about the project by PN MEP candidate Michael Briguglio, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova confirmed it must comply with the EU’s GDPR data protection regulations, where the processing is carried out by competent authorities for the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of crime or the execution of criminal penalties.
“In this light, it is important to identify who is the data controller for the purposes of the processing carried out within the ‘Safe City’ project,” Jourova wrote. “[The GDPR] requires a legal basis in national legislation, which determines at least the objective and purposes of the processing, and authorises the controller to perform the processing to the extent that the processing is necessary for the performance of a task in the public interest.”
“According to settled case law, the protection of personal data require that limitations in relation to that fundamental right can only apply insofar as it respects the essence of that right and is strictly necessary and proportionate.”
Cover photo: A control room in Lancashire, Credit: SecurityInformed.com