Who’s watching who? Amsterdam council unclear about surveillance responsibility

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With more and more monitoring systems following Amsterdammers’ every move the local council is unclear about who is responsible for the surveillance in public spaces, a damning report by research bureau PwC reveals.

The report, commissioned by the city’s privacy watchdog CPA, concludes that there is no ‘integral approach’ to surveillance in the capital. When asked about the monitoring systems, civil servants referred PwC researchers to other departments while each department had its own privacy rules.

The researchers also found that citizens are insufficiently informed about the extent of the surveillance.

‘The PwC report supports what we have been feeling,’ CPA chairman Ulco van de Pol told the Parool. ‘These conclusions are painful for the council and show there is much work to be done.’

Van de Pol emphasised the need for a single vision on the digital city and cohesive management of the various departments, from public transport to the police.

The information available for citizens is ‘not transparent enough’ and ‘fragmented’ the report said. Signs denoting cameras are not always clearly visible and the information is not easy to find on the Amsterdam city website.

Amsterdam does have two digital maps showing the positions of surveillance systems but, the researchers found, these were not complete and could easily give citizens the impression that they are.

Van de Pol said the report destroys the council’s claim that Amsterdammers can walk around in a public space anonymously and without being spied on.

‘We think that is not the norm and it’s a claim that has been disproved in practice. So it shouldn’t be the starting point for policy making,’ he told the paper.

Amsterdam city council has not yet commented on the report.

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