Two citizens install on the perimeter wall of their homes some remotely adjustable cameras for visual and sound recording, pointing open areas of public transit. Some local residents and traders file a complaint, not accepting to be observed in their work activities and in their daily movements.
These controls were then used to highlight the commission of alleged offences which were to be prosecuted by means of complaints and complaints which were actually forwarded to the competent public security authorities.
Convicted in the first and second degree for private violence, the Supreme Court has acquitted the two defendants of the crime of private violence, which punishes those who, with violence or threat, force others to do, tolerate or omit anything.
The Supreme Court clarifies that the activity of video surveillance on the public highway does not constitute in itself illegal activity if carried out under certain conditions, but may constitute a crime the subsequent use that is made of these images (where, for example, you want to use the images to threaten the person taken or to induce them to certain unwanted behavior, such as the payment of a sum of money against the cancellation).
In acquitting the defendants, however, the Supreme Court affirms important principles relating to video surveillance and the conditions for being considered lawful even if carried out by private individuals on the public highway.
Recalling a judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (C. Giust. UE case C-212/13 of 11.12.2014.), the Judges of Piazza Cavour have specified that, what in the abstract is illegitimate, can be considered lawful if there is a legitimate interest of the person making the registration to the protection of their property such as health, his own life or that of his family, private property.
In such cases, the processing of personal data may be carried out without the consent of the person concerned, if this is strictly necessary for the realization of the interest of the data controller.
In this regard, the Court of Cassation notes that private individuals had published notices of the presence of the video surveillance system, thus having complied with the obligation to inform passers-by in advance of the use that would be made of their personal data (image, voice) for the exclusive purpose of preventing unlawful conduct.
(Court of Cassation, Criminal Section V, sentence no. 20527/19, filed on 13 May 2019)
THE OPINION OF THE PRIVACY GUARANTOR
Given the ruling of the Court of Cassation on the specific issue of the crime of private violence, however, it should be borne in mind that video surveillance is subject to special conditions and precautions that have been specified over time by the Guarantor for the protection of personal data.
In its opinion of 7 March 2017, recalling a general measure of 2010, the Guarantor specified that the video surveillance carried out by private individuals for personal purposes (as in the case examined, for the protection of property) must be carried out by adopting particular precautions to protect third parties:
with particular regard to the security of stored data;
limiting as far as possible the angle of view to the private area to be protected (for example, only the perimeter wall and not the roadside, the door of the house and not the landing);
obscuring any images of the public street that may be taken.
In such cases, the Guarantor specifies that the processing of data is carried out for personal purposes and is therefore not subject to prior information.