Irish lawmakers are moving forward with plans to give the national police access to facial recognition technology. The current version of the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill gives the Irish national police (known as the Garda Síochána) permission to wear body cameras, and the right to use third-party CCTV cameras and automated license plate recognition tech.
The amended version of that bill would allow the Garda to apply facial recognition technology to all of the footage captured with those other devices. The proposed amendment is still in the committee stage, but is expected to be passed and enacted before the end of 2023.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee is pushing for the changes despite staunch resistance from Irish privacy advocates. The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has argued that many facial recognition solutions still struggle with racial bias, and that the technology will erode trust between the police and the general public if it leads to mass surveillance and discriminatory policing practices. The head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has also spoken out against the bill, stating that it is too broad in its language and does not do enough to protect people’s civil liberties or prevent the police abuse of the technology.
For her part, McEntee is indicating that national security should take precedence over people’s privacy, at least with regards to facial recognition. She has nevertheless tried to assuage people’s concerns, stressing that the facial recognition system would be in the hands of trained Garda officers, and that it would not be used for mass surveillance or data collection. However, it’s unclear if those safeguards have been encoded in the proposed legislation, or if it simply represents a handshake promise from national law enforcement.
If it is the latter, privacy advocates are unlikely to be satisfied with the government’s decision. McEntee has hinted that an impact assessment would be included as part of the legislation. The Garda, meanwhile, are hoping that the technology will make it easier to find missing people, and identify suspects during an investigation.
Source: The Irish Times
May 27, 2022 – by Eric Weiss