Europe seemed to be against facial recognition, but it is preparing an unprecedented system with millions of faces

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The European Union is preparing to use facial recognition on a large scale. The current database now used by the police, containing fingerprints and DNA, has planned to incorporate millions of faces of European citizens. A huge set of data to pursue criminals that wants to be renewed by adding an even more compromising piece of data: our faces.

The initiative was announced by the European Commission at the end of the year under the nickname of Prüm II. The plan is to modernize the police system of the different member countries, which have been collaborating for a long time in the information they share to pursue criminals. as described wired, several countries have requested to add facial recognition to these systems to supposedly improve the detection of criminals.

A facial recognition that collides with the position to date of the European Union

Last October, the European Parliament called for facial recognition to be banned in public spaces. Until now, the position of the European Union has been quite contrary to the massive use of this technology. However, its use by companies is one thing and the use of law enforcement is another. With the new proposal, it is not clear that the European Union is so opposed to its use. Always under a fairly clear precept, but the problem with this technology stems from its potential misuse.

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“What they’re creating is the largest biometric surveillance infrastructure that I think we’ve ever seen in the world,” he explains. Ella Jakubowskalawyer for the organization European Digital Rights (EDRi).

This facial recognition system would be available to Europol and the various national police forces. As the proposal describes, Prüm II would authorize the use of retrospective facial recognition, based on images from video surveillance cameras, social networks and police photographs.

According to a report by EDRi, facial matches for a given search can be between 10 and 100. That is, for every police search on a face, the database could provide several dozen possible results. The number of faces that different countries have available is enormous. Documents from April 2021 indicate that Hungary has a database with 30 million photosItaly with 17 million, France with 6 million and Germany with 5.5 million.

The European Union justification is that only facial images of suspected or convicted criminals can be exchanged. Nevertheless, the concept of “suspect” is very interpretable and easy to end up leading to abuse.

At the moment it is a project. The European Union will have to vote on this proposal. Although Prüm II is well defined, it is planned to come into operation in 2024 Y has an estimated budget of 93 million euros. If it goes ahead, it will be the citizens themselves who pay for the creation of these new national databases with millions of faces. An update of the police database that has a specific purpose, but whose creation generates enormous associated risks.

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The European Union is preparing to use facial recognition on a large scale. The current database now used by the…

The European Union is preparing to use facial recognition on a large scale. The current database now used by the…

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