Possibility of Chinese facial biometrics systems in Brazilian CCTV network raises concerns

The government of Brazil has introduced a bill to permit the installation of a network of security cameras with integrated facial recognition technology to public spaces to help police with crime prevention, particularly in areas with high levels of drug trafficking and organized crime, BestVPN reports.

Eight members of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL) recently travelled to China to check out the technology in action, according to a report by Merco Press. China is Brazil’s biggest trade partner and foreign investor, but Bolsonaro has accused China of attempting to “buy Brazil,” and a popular media columnist MP reports is regarded as part of the President’s brain trust, attacked the lawmakers on the trip over social media.

Olavo de Carvalho called the lawmakers “hayseeds” and “semi-illiterates,” and Bolsonaro was reportedly surprised by the trip. A PSL deputy admitted that the Chinese government is paying for the trip, but argued that it represents an important fact-finding mission about a technology the country wants to deploy.

The government hopes to pass its bill in February and begin installing the cameras in Rio de Janeiro shortly after. They are expected to be deployed to train and subway stations, airports, pedestrian areas, and neighbourhoods troubled by high crime.

Chinese facial recognition companies, including Hikvision and Dahua, have been banned from U.S. government contracts following reports that backdoors installed in their systems allowed data to be passed on to the Chinese government.

Research and Education Institute (INSPER) Digital Law Program Coordinator Renato Opice Blum told BestVPN that the deployment of cameras was inevitable, but that the Data Protection Act which comes into force in the country in 2020 could help protect Brazillian citizens from violations of privacy or procedure.

“I see this path as irreversible,” Opice Blum says. “For this reason, it is going to be necessary to monitor society and update legislation to avoid abuse in the use of these tools.”

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