With regards to the police force’s announcement of the installation of 1,600 surveillance cameras, lawmaker Sulu Sou has discovered that this figure actually refers to the number of locations, each of which may have more than one camera installed. Therefore, the number of new cameras may be substantially higher than the 1,600 figure previously quoted by the security services.
Sou and the New Macau Association, on whose ticket the lawmaker was elected in 2017, met with the Office for Personal Data Protection (GPDP) on Wednesday morning, after which, he told the press about the finding.
The police force has previously announced that the total quantity of surveillance cameras installed so far is 1,600. It later came to the lawmaker’s knowledge that each installation may involve more than one camera lens. This affects the data that the police are able to collect with one installation.
Moreover, this has caused ambiguity in the actual meaning of the number 1,600. “It is indeed 1,600 locations, not lenses,” explained Sou.
The installation of surveillance cameras has been broken down into four phases. Before each phase starts, the public security forces have to propose the installation to the GPDP.
Such a proposal must include the justification for the necessity. “The Office said it is not a rubber stamp,” disclosed the lawmaker. “The police forces need to provide supportive evidence to prove the necessity.”
Also under public scrutiny is the introduction of car plate and facial recognition functions. Fifty camera installations will be tested for their functions early next year. Sou is concerned about the effectiveness and proactivity of the Office’s safeguarding efforts.
Sou said the Office had reiterated that the public security forces particularly cared about the safety of personal data. He quoted the Office as saying “[the government] dares not cross the line.”
However, the current information does not convince Sou, who doubts the capacity of the Office to proactively monitor the implementation of the policy.
The lawmaker recalled that previous press releases issued by the GPDP denied the speculation that a database of personal data and biological features of residents and tourists would be set up in Macau, enabling the public security forces to get hold of the details of all these people.
In Wednesday’s meeting, the GPDP clarified to the lawmaker that this would not be the case.
The function will be supportive to the security forces’ law enforcement efforts. Once they have a suspect, the forces will be able to evaluate images from camera footage and compare them with the intelligence in their possession.
However, the images and distinguishing features of surrounding crowds will also be recorded. In the previous GPDP press release, the Office projected that these surrounding images would be deleted.
The lawmaker then asked whether this was from an official plan submitted by the forces. “The Office said it was the result of professional deduction [of the Office], estimating the actual practices in the future,” said Sou.
“Then we have a big problem before us,” the lawmaker stressed. “We can’t tell whether this will be the actual practice in the future. [If the Office’s guess is wrong,] it will cause serious violation to all other residents.”
Sou hopes to arrange a meeting with the public security forces to clear up these doubts, adding that if an actual plan is absent, he doubts the effectiveness of the GPDP’s watchdog role.
He also expressed hope that the GPDP would proactively request the actual plan from the police forces.
The GPDP told the lawmaker that there were oral proposals previously, which were opposed by the Office. They could not be presented to the lawmaker as the Office did not make a record of oral proposals. Meanwhile, the lawmaker has also filed a written request to the security forces for such information.
According to Macau Daily Times, Sou emphasized that these oral proposals are important to evaluate the initial or actual mindset of the public security forces, in terms of the developments they wish to see in the technology.
Besides this, the two parties also discussed matters related to marketing calls. The lawmaker recommended residents report to the Office every time they receive such calls. He stressed that such calls help provide reliable data to the Office in terms of the affected population.