Judgment in a case concerning camera surveillance

Regarding the balancing of the interest in camera surveillance and the individual’s interest in not being surveilled, where the question concerns a municipal authority’s camera surveillance during the day and early evening of certain central locations in the city centre.

A permit is required in order for an authority to use camera surveillance at a location to which the public has access. In conjunction with the consideration of an application, a balancing between the need for camera surveillance and the right to protection of personal integrity must be carried out. A permit may only be granted if the interest in camera surveillance weighs more heavily than the individual’s interest in not being surveilled.

In 2018 a new Camera Surveilance Act (2018:1200) entered into force. The Act is intended, inter alia, to generally improve the possibility of obtaining a permit for camera surveillance. The Act supplements the EU General Data Protection Regulation and implements the EU Data Protection Directive.

Uppsala Municipality applied for a permit for round-the-clock camera surveillance of a centrally situated square and an adjacent lane. The stated purpose of the surveillance was to prevent and investigate crimes, prevent or discover disturbances of the public order and safety, and to increase public security. The Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection decided to grant the municipality a permit for camera surveillance but only between 20:00 and 06:00.

The question that the Supreme Administrative Court had to decide on in the case was during which time of day a municipality may conduct camera surveillance. It was uncontested in the case that the relevant areas, even during daytime, were to be regarded as crime-prone. The question was whether the interest of the municipality in surveilling these areas between 06:00 and 20:00 weighed more heavily than the interest of the individual in not being surveilled during this time.

The Supreme Administrative Court stated firstly that, in the case of surveillance of large public areas, a large amount of data regarding persons who are not relevant for the purpose of the surveillance will be processed. That is something that must be taken into account in the balancing of interests to be carried out. The principle regarding data minimisation entails that the smallest amount of personal data possible is to be collected and processed.

The area for which the municipality had received a permit for camera surveillance was a relatively large and centrally situated square with an adjacent lane with businesses and restaurants. The Supreme Administrative Court considered it to be an area in which it is critical that individuals can move about freely without being surveilled. It was also an area in which a very large number of persons, particularly during the daytime, passed through or stayed. Even if there were problems with criminality and other disturbances of order throughout the day, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the interest in camera surveillance of the relevant area during the daytime and early evening weighed less heavily than the individual’s interest in not being surveilled. The municipal authority’s appeal was rejected.

Read the judgment here: