Serbian Police Post Sex CCTV Video Online

Dollores Benezic Belgrade

Strict data protection and privacy laws are a relatively new thing to Serbia, a country where police officers posted CCTV footage showing a couple having sex in a car park on YouTube.

Aleksandar Resanovic, Serbia’s deputy information commissioner (Photo: Dollores Benezic)

There are many CCTV cameras on the streets of Belgrade. Obviously, they are there to monitor traffic and ensure some degree of security. One of these surveillance cameras is maintained by the police officers at the station on highway E75, which cuts across the city from north to south.

Just across the road from the police station is a gym. One morning at 3am, the CCTV camera recorded an unwitting couple having sex in the car park. Of course, the camera was in place only for security reasons but the film was then posted on YouTube, which is a criminal act in many European countries.

Disseminating personal data recorded unlawfully or without the subject’s consent is an offence in most European states. While the police officers blurred the faces of the couple having sex, they were identified because the registration number on their car was clearly visible.

The story attracted much publicity and even I found out, accidentally, who the young woman was during my recent trip to Serbia.

I rented an apartment in the city centre and the landlord claimed he is a neighbour of the girl, who is in her early twenties. While the video was a YouTube success, the girl’s family walk around their neighbourhood with heads bent in shame.

No one was punished for posting the video online, despite the fact that it constitutes a serious breach of the law in terms of access to and processing of personal data – something that, incredibly, most people seem to ignore.

Although Serbia has implemented the European directives on data protection, its police department does not have clear regulations for the use of CCTV footage and access to information obtained from surveillance.

After the leaks, the country’s information commissioner started an investigation. However, it was impossible to determine who was guilty, because they could not prove who had access to the room and the images captured by the CCTV camera.

“It was not possible to identify the policeman who did this because the police did not have any regulation or system of surveillance or electronic cards for access to the space. After the inquiry, we gave them a model to follow. Each policeman must now be verified when he enters the room, and uses a specific electronic card so that when they come into the room they are personally identified,” says Aleksandar Resanovic, deputy information commissioner in Serbia.

“We also ordered them to use the CCTV only for security of buildings and the surroundings, and for the control of traffic on the highway. Also, we ordered that no policemen can enter the room [with CCTV equipment and footage] with a camera and telephone, because they could tape the video with another device. In addition, we asked them to install a CCTV inside the room, to monitor the activities of policeman in that specific place.”

Resanovic is pleased that the interior ministry has implemented these measures as requested, and even extended them to all police stations.

So, to the big question in this field, who controls the controllers? Who monitors the monitors? Mr Resanovic accepts that they have a lot to work on that direction in Serbia, but the question is valid in all countries.

In Serbia, for example, only one per cent of companies that collect and process personal data from the population have notified the information commissioner, even though the law obliging them to do so has been in force since 2009.

On the other hand, people are hardly aware of what happens to their personal data and they offer it free on almost any occasion.

Just like in Romania, Serbians are still tied to the old communist regimes under which we lived and are still used to having the eyes of Big Brother firmly fixed on them.

Dollores Benezic is a freelance journalist from Bucharest who is participating in the 2011 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

She will be writing regular updates on her investigation into workplace surveillance, privacy at work, workers’ rights and employment law in Romania, the Balkans and the European Union.

Fellow Bio


Dollores Benezic

Dollores Benezic began her media career in 1994, four years after Romania became a democratic country. 


Topic 2011: Justice

The topic for this year’s programme is justice and fellows are investigating subjects as diverse as privatisation, organised crime, employment law, rape convictions and extradition treaties.


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