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EU Commissioner warns Malta public facial recognition plan may not meet legal requirements


European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova has written that a planned deployment of a Safe City CCTV network with biometric facial recognition in Malta would have to undergo a data protection impact assessment and comply with GDPR, in order to comply with EU law, MaltaToday reports.

GDPR requires the processing of special categories of personal data, such as video images, to meet a threshold for substantial public interest. The Malta IT Law Association warned that the planned deployment would fail to meet that and other legal criteria when it was first announced.

Michael Briguglio, a candidate for the PN party in upcoming European Parliamentary elections, wrote to Jourova, along with the European Commissioners for Security and Digital Society, and the European Data Protection Supervisor, to ask several questions about the Maltese government’s planned deployment of facial recognition technology developed by Huawei. Briguglio called for the EU authorities to ask the Government of Malta for detailed information about the project, and to asses whether it has created the necessary legal framework to back it, as well as whether it meets requirements for necessity and proportionality.

Hauwei’s facial recognition technology was recently selected to be part of a CCTV network running on 5G technology for the Forbidden City.

The United Nations’ rapporteur on data protection, Professor Joseph Cannataci, who is based in Malta, filed a request for clarifications on the project immediately after a pilot of the Safe City system was announced for Paceville in 2017. Malta Today reports that legal and data protection issues appear to have sidetracked those plans.

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