The Vilnius City District Court has ruled that the owner of a commercial establishment that was located in an apartment block violated his neighbors' right to privacy by installing no fewer than eight surveillance cameras without their consent.
The owner argued that he was trying to protect his property and that the cameras were turned off, but his pleas failed to persuade the court.
Can't get home without being filmed
The owner, who had a history of quarrelling with his neighbors, installed three cameras in the main stairway and five on the outside of the building. The cameras monitored both entrances, the sidewalk, the parking lot and even the entrance to one of the flats. This meant that the residents were, in essence, unable to enter their homes without being filmed.
According to the court, the neighbors (who were also the plaintiffs in the case) had clearly shown that they did not consent to being filmed - in fact, they even complained to the State Data Protection Inspectorate about the situation. At the same time, the respondent had set up video surveillance in such a way that the other residents had no choice except to enter the monitored area and could not avoid being filmed against their will.
The private lives of neighbors
The court found that this not only violated their right to an image, but also their right to respect for private life:
"By monitoring the stairway and apartment entrances used by the plaintiffs, the respondent inevitably collects additional information about the plaintiffs' private lives, which is wider in scope than just the right to an image: at what times and how often the plaintiffs leave or return home, how long they stay at home, what kind of people visit them and how often they receive guests, etc."
Having established that there was a violation of the plaintiffs' right to private life, the court ordered the respondent to remove all eight cameras and forbade him from setting up any cameras in the future without first obtaining written consent from all of the residents of the building.
No respect for privacy
The Human Rights Monitoring Institute acted as a third party that supported the plaintiffs.
Karolis Liutkevičius, who represented the HRMI in court, welcomed the decision. According to him, Lithuanian law is not very clear on the use of surveillance cameras by private individuals.
"There are many cases of abuse, where cameras are used without respecting the need for privacy of those living nearby. As such, we are happy that the court, in dealing with this issue, acted in accordance with the fundamental human right to privacy, laying down the foundations for dealing with similar situations in this way in the future."