The Director of the state-owned company Safe City Malta, Joseph Cuschieri, said that the Government’s plan to introduce an advanced system of CCTV cameras in Paceville and Marsa will not be using facial recognition technology. On the other hand, the Data Commissioner, Saviour Cachia said that his office is closely following the plans to ensure that personal data is fully protected.
Safe City Malta is currently carrying out tests on the technology from Huawei, the company which is developing the concept of safe cities. Mr Cuschieri explained how the technology which will be used will help Police operations to keep the area safe without having facial recognition.
“This technology is so advanced that according to how you configure it, it gives off a signal whenever there is a commotion, or a fight or a theft in progress. So this technology has the ability to let the disciplinary forces know so that they can arrive before the crime actually takes place. The police officers will have devices on them which are transmitted from the control room with videos of what would be happening in a particular place so that they will know what they are going to find even before they get there.”
Following the suspicions which were raised by countries such as the US and Canada that Huawei technology will have access to mobile platforms, Mr Cuschieri insisted that the company will not have access to Malta’s data systems.
“One should point out that in countries where there are concerns about Huawei, it is more about the equipment which they offer principally to mobile phone service providers, which in our case will not happen. This is because no mobile operator in Malta has Huawei equipment.”
Since this technology provides for a collection of images of people in public places and involves a form of processing, Mr Cuschieri said that before this comes into effect, an agreement has to be reached with the Data Commissioner. The Commissioner, Mr Cachia, confirmed with TVM that he has already held a meeting with Safe City Malta and that he will ensure that this technology will be respecting the data protection laws.
“It appears that the main aim is to prevent criminal activity and, in fact, Paceville and Marsa were mentioned. But even in the case of these two areas, to date there is no legal basis for it to be done overnight because you must have a law since that is what is required by the European GDPR law,” he pointed out.
After the verifications on a legal and technical level are concluded, the technology is expected to enter into effect by the end of next year.