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22 jan 20
22 jan 20
Renew Europe urges Commission and Privacy watchdog to look into the use of facial recognition apps by police forces

Members of the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament have sent letters today to the European Commission as well as to the European Data Protection Board (EDBP) requesting them to look into the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement and intelligence authorities in the EU.

On 18 January, the New York Times reported that Clearview AI, a facial recognition app with a database of more than three billion pictures that have been collected from social media and other sources, is being used by over 600 law enforcement agencies worldwide. The app allows them to use a picture of a person, upload it, and get links to public pictures of that person [1]. Renew Europe Members are concerned about the use of facial recognition technology that readily identifies everyone in the street based on his or her face, without any transparency on the private company that developed this private application or on the algorithm it uses, potentially constituting an enormous threat to citizens’ fundamental rights and democracy.

Therefore Renew Europe is asking the Commission and the EDBP:

  • whether any law enforcement or intelligence agencies in the EU are using Clearview, and if Clearview is using images of citizens in the EU as well;
  • whether they consider this use of a commercial app for facial recognition technology in law enforcement or intelligence to be consistent with EU data protection and privacy laws and all relevant EU-US agreements on law enforcement cooperation;
  • whether they will issue a recommendation on the use of Clearview and similar apps by law enforcement and intelligence authorities;

Sophie in 't Veld MEP (D66, The Netherlands) Renew Europe's coordinator in the Civil Liberties Committee said:

“We want to wholeheartedly embrace new technologies in Europe. But we always have to be aware of the impact on people and on society. Therefore we welcome the “reflection pause” on facial recognition that the Commission is considering. But technology won’t wait. Clearview AI is a far-reaching and invasive new app, and the use of such technologies by law enforcement and intelligence authorities in Europe must be very carefully scrutinised. Therefore we ask the Commission and EDPB to urgently clarify the situation and provide guidance”.

Moritz Körner MEP (FDP, Germany) and Member of the Civil Liberties Committee said:

"The right to privacy is a cornerstone of Western democracies. Groundless and unjustified surveillance is against EU law. Accordingly, the use of indiscriminate facial recognition technology by European law enforcement authorities must be prevented. Not everything that is technologically doable is socially desirable."

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/18/technology/clearview-privacy-facial-recognition.html

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