The Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak has granted the Public Security Police Force (PSP) a renewal of the rights of usage of 601 surveillance cameras installed in Macau’s public spaces so that they can officially continue to operate. The dispatch, which was published in the government’s Official Gazette yesterday, grants the rights from today onwards for a period of two years.
According to the dispatch, the renewal was granted after a binding opinion was issued by the Office for Personal Data Protection.
The dispatch refers only to the 600 or so cameras that were previously installed and are already operating under the management of the PSP.
The installation and use of these cameras by the security authorities has been a somewhat controversial topic of discussion for several years.
Late last year, distrust was sparked once more when the Unitary Police Service (SPU) announced that an additional 50 cameras would be selected to test facial recognition functions and to assess the effectiveness of the city’s surveillance system.
According to information disclosed by the secretary, the first 50 cameras with facial recognition technology have already underwent testing during the first quarter of 2020.
According to the government’s plan, Macau will have a total of 2,600 surveillance cameras by 2023, and 4,200 by 2028, when the last phase of installation will conclude.
Figures disclosed by the PSP show that over 1,600 surveillance cameras are currently operating in Macau territory. This number was disputed by lawmaker Sulu Sou in October last year, who said that he had discovered that the number referred to locations and not cameras. He further hinted that since many locations have several cameras installed, the real figure could be much higher.
Other lawmakers have also addressed the topic. Au Kam San is one of the most critical voices, and has expressed his disapproval of what he regards as an excessive number of surveillance cameras, saying they were for the “social control” of the population.
The law provisions state that footage from the surveillance cameras should expire and be deleted from the system after 60 days.
In response to public concerns, the police authority claims that it has already established a series of rules to ensure that they safeguard the privacy of the public.