A seemingly innocuous test of a biometric attendance tracking system has resulted in Sweden’s first GDPR fine.
The fine of 200,000 Swedish Krona was applied by the Swedish Data Protection Authority, or DPA, to the municipality of Skellefteå after it had trialed an attendance tracking system based on facial recognition technology at the Anderstorp High School. The trial was conducted last autumn, lasted three weeks, and involved 22 students.
Municipal officials had claimed that teachers were spending 17,000 hours a year on student attendance, and explained that their use of facial recognition was aimed at automating that process. They said that the trial had been successful and that they were considering expanding their use of the technology.
In issuing its fine, Sweden’s DPA determined that municipal authorities had not undertaken an adequate impact assessment concerning the technology’s use, which would have included consulting the DPA. And while the school authorities insisted that they had collected the subjects’ consent for the trial, the DPA said that such consent was not legitimate given the power imbalance between the students and school administrators, and furthermore insisted that students had a reasonable expectation of a certain amount of privacy on school grounds.
In relative terms, the 200,000 Swedish Krona fine – about $21,000 – is a slap on the wrist, given that the maximum fine could have been close to $1 million. But in issuing the fine at all, Sweden’s authorities have demonstrated the tangible effects of the European Union’s big new privacy regulation. And while the GDPR would appear to stand in opposition to biometric identification in this case, it has also helped to promote the use of biometrics in the protection of EU citizen’s privacy and data elsewhere.
August 27, 2019 – by Alex Perala
Like all biometrics solutions, face recognition technology measures and matches the unique characteristics for the purposes of identification or authentication. Often leveraging a digital or connected camera, facial recognition software can detect faces in images, quantify their features, and then match them against stored templates in a database.
Face scanning biometric tech is incredibly versatile and this is reflected in its wide range of potential applications. Learn more on FindBiometrics’ Facial Recognition page.