Europe’s civil society resistance against mass surveillance
The introduction of biometric mass surveillance in Serbia and elsewhere in Europe has spurred a wave of community-led opposition. Two of the largest initiatives are Hiljadekamera and ReclaimYourFace.
The Thousands of Cameras (@hiljadekamera) project is a community of individuals and organizations led by the SHARE Foundation that advocates for the responsible use of surveillance technology. The goal of the initiative is the protection of privacy and dignity of all citizens. The campaign includes a website to educate the public about the consequences of potential ubiquitous facial-recognition technologies across Belgrade. The website, which went live in May 2020, provides an interactive map of the city marked with the locations of all the city’s surveillance cameras. As of March 20th, 2021, the number of cameras exceeded 1,055 at 473 locations, with more underway. That stands in contrast to the Ministry of Interior’s website, which claims only 243 locations have cameras.
The initiative raised more than 1 million Serbian dinars (9000 EUR) in a crowdfunding campaign and called on citizens to sign a petition to oppose the installation and use of biometric surveillance, not only in Serbia but across Europe.
ReclaimYourFace is a petition campaign organized by the advocacy group European Digital Rights (EDRi) with the goal of banning biometric mass surveillance across the continent. The campaign’s petition, entitled, “Civil society initiative for a ban on biometric mass surveillance practices,” was registered by the European Commission in January 2021 as an official petition under the European Citizens’ Initiative, an EU legal mechanism for citizens to provide input on policies by gathering 1 million signatures.
The campaign is based on a May 2020 EDRi paper calling on the European Commission to ban biometric mass surveillance in the EU. The paper detailed the threats that under-regulated mass surveillance poses for fundamental human rights, including privacy, data protection, equality, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association, and due process.