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Leaked Safe City images spark concern among citizens

Updated January 27, 2019

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The recently-leaked footage has now raised a number of questions about the project, such as whether it is keeping people safe or putting them at risk. ─ PPI/File
The recently-leaked footage has now raised a number of questions about the project, such as whether it is keeping people safe or putting them at risk. ─ PPI/File

ISLAMABAD: Leaked images captured by Safe City cameras have sparked concerns among citizens about the intrusiveness of the programme as well as the misuse of captured footage.

The leaked images of couples travelling in various vehicles went viral on social media last week.

The Safe City project was launched in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar to monitor antisocial elements, criminals and terrorists and prevent criminal and terrorist activity.

However, the facility has sometimes failed to deliver the desired results, as witnessed in the kidnapping and murder of Peshawar Superintendent of Police (SP) Tahir Dawar.

The recently-leaked footage has now raised a number of questions about the project, such as whether it is keeping people safe or putting them at risk.

After the images were leaked and circulated on social media, the Islamabad police initiated an investigation to determine if the images were leaked from the capital or elsewhere, police officials said.

Although recent images were not leaked from Islamabad, police officer says four people were dismissed over leaks a few years ago

They said the investigation revealed that the images were not captured by Safe City cameras in Islamabad.

Investigators contacted the owners of the vehicles pictured and asked for statements in the matter.

One of the individuals contacted, who owned a car bearing an Islamabad registration plate, told the police the image was captured in Lahore.

Another individual whose vehicle was also registered in Islamabad told investigators he had sold his vehicle to a Lahore resident.

The owner of a vehicle bearing a Lahore registration plate told investigators that he was residing in Bahawalpur and working in a hospital there.

He told them he had visited Lahore in the first two weeks of December, which was when the image was captured.

The police officials said the National Database and Registration Authority director general was verbally informed that the investigation had found that the images were not captured by Safe City cameras in Islamabad.

A senior police officer told Dawn on condition of anonymity that images were leaked from the Safe City cameras in Islamabad a few years ago, including photographs of girls leaked in 2016.

Four people were found guilty in the incident and dismissed from service.

The officer said it was not possible to download images and videos from the Safe City project in Islamabad, and it is also difficult to copy footage with mobile phones and video cameras. Under the standard operating procedure (SOP), it is impossible to leak images and videos from the Safe City control room and building.

However, the official said, three other authorities are also using and controlling Safe City cameras installed in the capital.

Safe City SP Hassam Iqbal, when contacted, said that the project in Islamabad works under SOPs to counter and avoid such incidents.

The users of cameras, screens and computers attached to the project are working under logins and passwords, and whenever an authorised official uses or opens them a log is maintained with their name, time, and the identification of the camera and computer, he said.

“Downloading snaps and videos is also restricted and only authorised officials may do so after providing their login and password,” he said, adding that they are only provided access after approval from the concerned officer.

Cameras, mobile phones and USBs are prohibited inside the control room, Mr Iqbal said, and internet is not provided to avoid the transfer of data. He said anyone copying images or videos would be booked under cybercrime laws.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2019