The Electronic Surveillance of Public Assemblies: Political Privacy & Public Anonymity in Greece

The Electronic Surveillance of Public Assemblies: Political Privacy & Public Anonymity in Greece

Haralambos Anthopoulos (Hellenic Open University, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-083-9.ch004
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Abstract

The electronic surveillance of public assemblies has been an issue highly debated in the Greek public arena. The circumstances that brought this internationally contested topic in the public focus were the parliamentary introduction of Law 3625/2007 in Greece and the legislative enactment of an exemption from the data protection legislation for all police activities involving data processing during public assemblies. This paper will argue that the electronic surveillance of public assemblies affects both the privacy of political views (political privacy) and the activism (public anonymity) of a citizen. Along this line, the paper offers a combined analysis of the right to data protection [Art. 9A] and the right to free assembly [Art. 11] as acknowledged in the Greek Constitution (1975/86/01/08). As underlined, both rights constitute the basis for the protection of political privacy and public anonymity and preclude any legislatively posed limitations to their enjoyment. In the end, three key cases of the European Court of Human Rights shed light to the legitimacy of such a ‘panoptic’ surveillance of public assemblies.
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I. Introduction: The Electronic Surveillance Of Public Assemblies

The electronic surveillance of public assemblies has been a controversial topic in the Greek public arena, particularly during the parliamentary discussion of Law 3625/2007. This Law exempted all police activities involving data processing during public assemblies from their obligation to protect the fundamental principles deriving from the rights to privacy and data protection (Art. 8). This paper argues that such a form of surveillance of the citizens’ political activism affects the values protected under the Greek Constitution, particularly the right to data protection and the freedom of assembly. In order to examine this issue in depth, we pursue a three-level analysis: a) we analyze the content of both the right to data protection [Art. 9A of the Greek Constitution] and freedom of assembly [Art. 11 of the Greek Constitution], separately and combined, and discuss the concepts of political privacy and public anonymity, and the way they guarantee the protection of public assemblies, b) we examine how the legislative exemption affects such constitutional values and guarantees and c) we use three key cases of the European Court of Human Rights to further examine the legitimacy of the electronic surveillance of Greek public assemblies.

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