Police breaking the law? Maybe – IT law experts

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Malta IT Law Association (MITLA) has shown its deep concern at reports that several plainclothes policemen were seen taking photos of people taking part in demonstrations organised in the past weeks. The IT experts said in a statement that this could potentially be against the law.

They also called on the Office of the Information and Data Protection (IDPC to urgently look into the matter to ensure that all investigations and verifications in the context of the processing of this sensitive personal data is carried out in accordance with applicable laws.

The law does not exist

The experts said the police cannot resort to taking photos of individuals unless this is done within the strict requirement of the law. These requirements oblige the police to take photos only “where strictly necessary, subject to appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of the data subject” as emanating from the same law itself.

The Police, say the experts, can collect personal data by technical surveillance however this must be based on law, which simply does not exist at this stage in Malta.  Additionally, the same law sets out data minimisation principles which necessitate that the collected data is erased once it fulfils its purposes.

The IT experts say that at this stage there is absolutely no information being given about the potential profiling and tagging of individuals, especially in the context of whether they are determined as potential perpetrators, convicted individuals, victims or potential witnesses. They add that moreover, no information is forthcoming about whether any of the requirements mandated by law are being observed leading MITLA to be seriously concerned as to whether such requirements are even considered, let alone observed.

MITLA contacting Amnesty International

In 2017 MITLA had already expressed a legal opinion expressing its concern about the present surveillance techniques being utilised by the state.

MITLA will continue to document how this situation will evolve in Malta and will share its legal review with Amnesty International and its European counterparts within professional and academic circles including the European Data Protection Board (EDPB).