By SHARE Foundation

SHARE Foundation has recently released a short documentary on the controversial use of the mass surveillance system in Belgrade, Serbia. Various digital experts and activists took part in the documentary, including the national Data Protection Authority in Serbia and EDRi’s own  Policy and Campaigns Officer, Ella Jakubowska.

The 10-minute video explains all the key questions of the use of smart surveillance technology in public spaces, as well as the arguments of the Thousands of Cameras initiative, which is demanding the respect of the Constitution and the laws

The Government of Serbia in cooperation with Huawei has been actively working on the implementation of the “Safe City” project in Belgrade. This project involves the installation of thousands of smart surveillance cameras with object and face recognition features. The procurement also involves an artificial intelligence system used for the analytics of the feed captured with these cameras.

A civic initiative, #hiljadekamera [Thousands of Cameras] is tracking the development of the mass surveillance system in Belgrade and has so far collected and verified data on 689 facial recognition cameras across the city. Composed of concerned citizens, experts and digital rights organisations, has been vocal about the deterioration of privacy as a result of this project for over a year. The website with the map showing locations of smart cameras hiljade.kamera.rs was launched in mid-May, together with social media accounts.

In the first two months of this crowdsourcing action, the citizen map revealed twice as many smart cameras than there are on the official police list. Major discrepancies are noted in Novi Beograd, Zvezdara, Stari Grad, but also in other municipalities of Belgrade.

facial recognition woman face camera
Still from the documentary

The Thousands of Cameras initiative gathers citizens, activists and human rights organisations asking for transparency and opening a wide public debate on the system of non-selective invasion of constitutional rights. At the same time, the hiljade.kamera.rs website serves as a portal where citizens can inform themselves about their rights or legal and technical aspects of the use of facial recognition technologies, or join the activities of the initiative.

The initiative, led by SHARE Foundation, a Belgrade – based digital rights organisation has done numerous activities in the field of crowdmapping the infrastructure, community building, research, advocacy and content production.