The Ministry of Public Telecommunications has addressed concerns raised about the possible facial recognition and tracking technologies used by cameras installed under the Safe City Component of the National Broadband Project.
In a detailed statement on Friday, the Ministry sought to assure citizens that the cameras are not intended to infringe on an individual’s right to privacy.
The cameras are currently being installed “as a valuable resource for the security forces in their fight against crime,” the Ministry said.
According to the statement, the facial recognition technology will only be deployed at the official ports of entry in Guyana –Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Eugene F. Correia International Airport and Molesen Creek Ferry Crossing.
Those cameras will be different from the CCTV cameras erected in public spaces.
“These cameras are the only ones capable of comparing images generated from automatic facial recognition software against databases administered by the Guyana Police Force, and by recognized international security agencies that Guyana has bilateral relationships with,” the Ministry said.
It was noted that the Government of Guyana has no plans to install specialized facial recognition cameras in city streets anytime in the foreseeable future.
The Ministry also assured that personal data stored by agencies such as the Central Immigration and Passport Office, Guyana Elections Commission and Guyana Revenue Authority, “have not been and will not be shared under this project.”
In fact, the Ministry noted that laws and regulations that govern these agencies prevent unauthorised sharing of such data.
The Safe City initiative provides for the construction of an integrated National Emergency Response Command Centre (NERCC) with a network of CCTV cameras located around Georgetown. Training for local staff who will be managing the centre is being provided by a consulting team of British security experts. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are also being developed.
The Public Telecommunications Ministry said the Safe City programme operates on an independent government-owned fibre optic network managed by the National Data Management Authority (NDMA).
“It has no points of entry or gateways for any third party – individuals or companies,” the Ministry assured.
According to the statement, access to the CCTV network of cameras is only possible by authorized security personnel who are stringently vetted before they are assigned to the NERCC.
“Strong penalties are in place for persons who breach these requirements.”
The NERCC will serve to ensure there is:
- Efficient deployment of law enforcement staff
- Better multi-agency response to incidents and emergencies
- Increased success and efficiency in bringing criminals to justice
- Enhanced security coordination for major public events
- Efficient disaster management
- Increased awareness of threats to public security
- Establishing integrity of data and information for the Criminal Justice system
- Presentation of ‘hard’ evidence in court cases
- Improved response time for all emergency services
- Establishment of a single response number, e.g. 911, for any emergency