From the aspect of the Law on Personal Data Protection, is it lawful to deploy video surveillance in an apartment building by installing cameras on every floor and in the lift cabin in a way which allows all homeowners to see the footage taken by all cameras at all times on their TV screens?
The issue of video surveillance is not specifically provided for in any law. Even the Law on Personal Data Protection itself (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, Nos. 97/08 и 104/09 – new law, 68/2012 – Decision of the Constitutional Court and 107/2012), as the overarching law in this field, does not contain a single provision on the processing of citizen's personal information through video surveillance in general, and thus also video surveillance in apartment buildings as a specific instance. Nevertheless, installation of video surveillance equipment should always be done in accordance with the principles of the Law on Personal Data Protection and the accepted international standards in this field.
The use of video surveillance can constitute a significant invasion of an individual's privacy, as well as certain other rights and freedoms of persons (e.g. freedom of movement, the right to personal data protection). Hence, the implementation of video surveillance should not be seen as a mere technical decision. Indeed, a common requirement is that a decision to install video surveillance should be made by a qualified majority, which is much higher than the simple majority required for most other decisions. For example, the laws of Slovenia and Montenegro require a qualifying majority of 70%, while the Macedonian law requires a 100% agreement of all homeowners in an apartment building. In this context, it is necessary to clearly define the reasons for installing the surveillance equipment, i.e. the purpose of data processing (safety of persons, protection of property etc.).
When deciding which areas should be covered by video surveillance, principles to be borne in mind are the principle of proportionality of deployment of video surveillance and the principle of proportionality in the use of video surveillance, which means it is necessary to determine whether a specific area needs to be covered by video surveillance for data processing purposes or the purpose of such processing can be achieved by less intrusive means. Also, the procedure itself must be proportionate. The visual angle covered by the camera should prevent the capturing of an area larger than that strictly necessary for achieving the purpose of processing and should prevent the recording of any areas that are the sole property of private individuals. In many countries, video surveillance involves the surveillance of entrances to and exits from communal areas, but not surveillance insude such communal areas. Indeed, there are jurisdictions were such surveillance of certain communal areas, including lifts, is explicitly prohibited. Similarly, many jurisdictions do not allow the recording of entries to and departures from individual apartments. Video surveillance on every floor that would cover private apartments would not be allowed.
Furthermore, regarding the justifiability of the arrangement that would allow all homeowners in a building to see the footage taken by all cameras at all times on their TV screens, we are of the opinon that access to video surveillance footage through CCTV, public cable networks, the Internet or other means of electronic communication that can be used for broadcasting such footage, either in real time or in delayed broadcast, because this would allow a potentially unlimited number of persons to invade the privacy of citizens – regardless whether they are homeowners/tenants or third parties (who may come to visit the homeowners/tenants for various reasons) – without any specific need or purpose. The need to undertake measures in order to protect property and persons and the importance of such measures will not exclude the persons involved from complying with the duty to make such measures proportionate to their intended purpose and to avoid violating citizens' rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Finally, persons who enter an area covered by video surveillance have the right to be informed of such surveillance. An apartment building in which video surveillance is installed must have visibly placed notice of such video surveillance, which should warn about ongoing video surveillance and should include a visual or graphic symbol of video surveillance, the name of the data controller and a contact phone for any additional information in connection with the video surveillance.
In addition, a video system used for surveillance purposes must be tamper-proof.