Europe continues to struggle with privacy issues related to the collection of sensitive biometric data by law enforcement. In France, Norway and the UK, the introduction of new surveillance regulations and technologies has drawn criticism from citizens and surveillance groups, who have variously called facial recognition and other biometric surveillance methods wasteful. , repression and inaccuracy.
In France, a collective complaint against the Minister of the Interior was filed with the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL), demanding a ban on the use of what it describes as invasive biometric technologies. Worn by more than 15,000 people and submitted by Squaring the Net, he calls for reforms to the criminal records system and an end to the use of algorithmic CCTV, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify suspects. The complaint also denounces the increased use of facial recognition technology by the police. Finally, he criticizes the secure electronic document (TES) archiving system, which encompasses biometric data collected from passports and identity cards.
The CNIL has been accused of hindering the deployment of biometrics to improve public safety by the mayor of Nice, among others.
The Norwegian government is facing similar demands, according to Telecompaper, with the country’s Consumer Council calling on him to do more to protect the privacy of the Norwegian public. Rely on a Privacy Commission report which offered 140 suggested improvements, the Board identified six specific areas of concern. Manipulative design and surveillance-based marketing have been flagged as privacy risks, as has the use of remote biometric identity information, including facial recognition scans. With regard to the economy, the Council noted the pressure exerted by monopolies on the market and its impact on data collection. Finally, he highlighted the needs for improved supervision and leadership in the Norwegian public sector.
Criticism is less broad but no less intense in Yorkshire, UK, where advocacy groups are questioning the effectiveness of facial recognition technologies used by police. According to Yorkshire Post, a coalition of fourteen groups says force technology misidentifies people 87% of the time. Police say the percentage of misidentifications is significantly lower – somewhere between 0 and 0.08%. But they are reluctant to provide further details on their use of facial recognition, saying “confirming or denying whether or not further information is held regarding covert use of facial recognition technology would limit operational capabilities”.
A coalition of advocacy groups recently called on the new chief of London’s Metropolitan Police to end the use of facial recognition by force as one of his first actions in the post.
As Europe continues to face political and social upheaval, a common concern seems sure to bind its nations together for the foreseeable future. All eyes are on Europe – in particular, its biometrics and personal data – and debates will continue to rage over how much they should be allowed to watch.
European rights groups are also calling for a ban on the EU’s proposed Prüm II facial biometrics system.
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