Illegal video surveillance in Austria

By EDRi · October 25, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

During Infolaw legal forum on 17 October, Margot Artner, a Viennese lawyer,
expressed concerns regarding the existence of about 100 000 illegal
monitoring systems with recording functions in Austria. The estimation was
based on information obtained from vendors of monitoring software and
installing technicians.

Artner has waited for seven months in order to obtain from the data
protection commission the first permit for the operation of the video
monitoring system. The conditions required by the commission include the
deletion of records after 48h and the limitation of the access to the
recordings to only qualified staff that would have to work in pairs.

The only previous permit had been given to Wiener Linien (Vienna’s public
transport system) just for a two-year test period and extended afterwards to
another two years. The commission had given the permit in order to check
whether such a system may help in preventing vandalism acts. The permit
allows the company to record passengers and personnel and keep the
recordings for 48 hours.

The company has been criticised as the investment for the system was about
3.7 million euros while the return might be only in the range of about
200000 euros/year by reducing vandalism.

Although such systems presently operate legally in police stations, banks,
traffic monitoring, military facilities and in some individual companies
that have alarm-based activated cameras, most of the systems with recording
functions are operating illegally. A permit for all these systems is
necessary from the data protection commission and they have to be input into
the data processing registers irrespective of the number of cameras included
in the system.

The operation without permit is penalised with 9 445 euros besides other
additional costs related to re-apply for the permit and obtain the cease and
desist orders. A permit is necessary even if cameras are installed only to
identify robbers and the labour laws provisions must be observed in the
working areas.

Legal experts say that Austria may have 100,000 illegal video monitors