December 29, 2016 -
Earlier this month, Dutch police began using facial recognition technology to track suspects, comparing surveillance camera footage with a massive database containing images of people with criminal records according to a report by NL Times.
The database currently has more than 800,000 faces of convicted felons, as well as suspects who have not yet been convicted.
Individuals will be entered into the database if they are arrested for a crime that has a prison sentence of at least one year, according to police spokesperson John Riemen.
The police take a photo of suspects on arrest. If they are found innocent, their photo is removed from the database.
If they are convicted, their photo will be kept on file for 20 to 80 years, depending on the crime.
In addition to comparing criminals or suspected criminals to the facial images of suspects, the police can also compare the faces of suspects to another database containing images of asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and people applying for a Dutch visa.
To use the “foreigners database”, the police are required to attain permission from the public prosecutor.
Current Netherlands laws bar Dutch police from using photos of passports and driver’s licenses for facial recognition.
Privacy organizations like Bits of Freedom are concerned about the lack of political debate on the issue, compared to when the Dutch government implemented fingerprint database.
The organization also said it is worried that the police can use the “foreigners database”, which largely contains innocent people, as well as the long retention period for the images.
The police previously drew backlash for not carefully handling stored data.
“How are you sure that something was really removed from the database?” said information law professor Nico van Eijk. He also expressed concerns about how these databases will be used in future.
“That’s called feature creep: something is established for a specific purpose, but is then used for all sorts of other purposes.”