Police surveillance during protests may be unlawful, IT Law association says

The Malta IT Law Association says that according to law, police may only tag and profile individuals subject to appropriate safeguards for rights and freedoms of individuals' data

Plain-clothes policemen were observed taking pictures of protestors in the last few weeks
Plain-clothes policemen were observed taking pictures of protestors in the last few weeks

Plain-clothes police officers taking pictures during protests may be unlawful, the Malta IT Law Association (MITLA) said. 

Several reports read that multiple plain clothes policemen were observed at strategic locations through various ad-hoc protests over the past few weeks taking photos and videos of identifiable individuals.

"The association expresses its concern and calls on the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner to urgently look into the matter to ensure that all investigations and verifications in the context of processing of this sensitive personal data is carried out in accordance with applicable laws," MITLA said.

The association made reference to a specific law empowering police to process personal data in order to prevent and investigate criminal offences. 

"These requirements mandate that processing in this context by the Police should only be allowed where strictly necessary, subject to appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of the data subject as emanating from the same law itself," the association said.

The police can collect personal data by technical surveillance but this must be based in law, which simply does not exist at this stage in Malta, the association said. 

The MITLA lamented that no information was being provided by police about the potential profiling and tagging of individials or whether any requirement mandated by law are being observed. 

MITLA said that it would continue to document the situation and to share its legal review with Amnesty International and its European counterparts.

More in National