The police have failed to explain why several plainclothes policemen were last Sunday seen in strategic positions in Valletta taking pictures and footage of the protesters.

Several police officers were spotted walking with the crowd and snapping pictures during the anti-corruption protest.

Other officers normally assigned to the forensic section of the Malta Police Force were stationed in strategic locations in Castille square, shooting pictures of those demanding Dr Muscat’s resignation.

Asked to confirm that unidentified police officers were detailed to take pictures of the crowd and to state why the police needed such images, the police did not reply. Neither did they reply to questions on what will happen to the images taken in view of data protection laws, and whether this constituted subtle intimidation.

A source inside the police headquarters confirmed to Times of Malta that several police officers were detailed to take pictures of the crowd.

“This is not the first time that this has happened,” the source said.

“It’s a policing matter. Police would normally use these pictures in case of a disturbance, so that those committing any illegalities are easily identified and prosecuted.

“However, in the past, these pictures have been abused,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Prime Minister has not yet explained the presence of unidentified ‘security personnel’ during a meeting of the Cabinet at Castille which finished in the early hours of Friday morning.

The heavies blocked journalists from leaving by one of main doors of the OPM halls and restricted access for a few minutes.

The men have been identified as characters who often act as Labour Party agents during elections. 

Police surveillance during protests may be unlawful

In a reaction, the Malta IT Law Association (MITLA) called on the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure that all investigations in the context of processing of this sensitive personal data is carried out in terms of the law.   

It said that despite the generic powers seemingly afforded to the police to process personal data to prevent, investigate, detect or prosecute criminal offences, one must also consider other requirements set out by the law. 

These requirements mandated that processing of such information by the police should be carried out “where strictly necessary, subject to appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of the data subject.” 

Additionally the law says that the collected data should be erased once it fulfills its purposes.

At this stage there was no information that the people who were photographed were potential perpetrators, convicted individuals, victims or potential witnesses.