Jan Meisels Allen
Facial recognition technology, especially when used by government agencies is controversial. France has announced it will be the first European Union country to introduce facial recognition software for government services. Once implemented it will give users access to approximately 500 government websites. France says the program will not keep tabs on its residents, as it won’t be integrating the facial recognition biometric into citizens’ identity databases.
How it works
A new government app, Alicem, is based on facial recognition software. One takes a video of their face on their smart phone and uploads the video to a government server. This server has the information collected from the person’s data from their biometric passports or electronic residence permit. This is in Beta testing now but expected to go live by later this year.
Not All Agree Its Legal
Some believe this is a violation of the General Data Protection Regulation which bans facial recognition systems with some exceptions—such as when the person gives consent for use of the software. Frances’ data regulator, CNIL says the GDPR makes free choice mandatory is very concerned over this program.
Concerns range from proper lighting, use of makeup and position of the person in relationship to the camera compared with the photograph used to against it—especially if the photograph is an older one.
Martin Drago, a legal expert at La Quadrature du Net, a group that defends digital rights and civil liberties and which is suing the government at France's highest court of appeals, Conseil d’Etat. That decision is expected in a few months. Bloomberg News reported that a hacker was able to break into the government app in just over one hour.
There is legislation in the French Parliament to create a framework for wide-ranging tests of facial recognition technology.
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Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee