Today, on 9.12.2020, two letters were submitted to the Chief of the Hellenic Police, Mr. Karamalakis, raising key questions and requests for access to documents regarding the use of drones and portable cameras during police operations that took place in Athens on the anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising (15-18 of November 2020) and on the day of remembrance of Alexis Grigoropoulos’ death (6-7 of December 2020).

Both letters were notified to the Minister of Citizen Protection, Mr. Chrysochoidis, and to the President of the Data Protection Authority, Mr. Menoudakos.

The letters are co-signed by Greek citizens that live and work in the centre of Athens, among others journalists and lawyers actively involved in the protection of human rights and participating in organizations such as Homo Digitalis, Reporters United (link in Greek) and The Press Project.

It must be understood that the operation of portable surveillance systems, such as drones and portable cameras, can only take place when there is imminent and serious danger of commitment of specific crimes and it is always subject to the prior issuing of a specific decision by the Hellenic Police, which specifically justifies – every time – the fulfillment of the necessary conditions for operation of portable surveillance systems, explains the concrete factual elements established and details the terms of operation of the portable systems.

The first letter (link in Greek) focuses on the prohibition of all public outdoor gatherings on 15-18 of November, during which media and citizens reported that the Hellenic Police made use of camera-bearing drones in Athens in order to get an accurate picture of the situation on the streets of the city.

The citizens request to be informed whether the necessary safeguards and obligations established by national and European legislation were observed, and in particular they ask:

– If the Hellenic Police issued the necessary decision for the operation of portable surveillance systems before the use of drones,

– If the Hellenic Police conducted an impact assessment of the processing operations on the protection of personal data prior to the use of drones,

– If the Data Protection Authority had been previously consulted, and

– If the Hellenic Police possesses multicopter drones which are particularly agile and intrusive in urban environments and, if so, how have they been procured.

In addition, the citizens request access to the documents mentioned above as well as to the drone flight log of the Hellenic Police for the period at issue, in order to ascertain the fulfillment of the necessary conditions laid down by law.

The second letter (link in Greek) concerns Hellenic Police decision No 7001/2/92/1-a to operate surveillance systems on 6-7 of December in the city centre (Exarcheia – Athens University Porch – Syntagma Square) and other areas of Athens.

The decision at issue is not publicly available while the relevant announcement about the decision on the Hellenic Police website is broad and vague, without any mention whatsoever of the specific characteristics of the portable systems that were operated.

Uncertainty is, therefore, being created concerning the type of portable systems used in the operations of the Hellenic Police at that specific moment (e.g. drones, portable cameras on a stick etc) and the citizens signing the letter request to be informed about the types of portable surveillance systems that were actually used by the Hellenic Police, and are asking whether the Hellenic Police consulted with the Data Protection Authority in advance and whether it conducted an impact assessment of the envisaged data processing operations before the use of the surveillance systems.

Finally, the citizens request access to this particular decision so as to examine it for the purpose of determining that the necessary safeguards are met and, if necessary, in order to exercise the legal protection rights laid down by the relevant legislation.

If you want to learn more about Homo Digitalis’ activities with regard to the use of intrusive technologies such as drones, cameras and face recognition technologies in public spaces, you can visit our ReclaimYourFace (link in Greek) campaign.

Finally, you can also read about this action on the Reporters United webpage.