Biometric facial recognition deployments and regulations both advance
Finnish Police and Customs have been granted permission to use automatic facial biometric technology, with the approval of a new surveillance law, and plan to gradually update their public surveillance cameras facial recognition software, according to Finnish publication Yle.
Both police and customs officials hope the technology will speed up investigations, though Finland’s recently updated data protection law places some limits on its use by law enforcement agencies.
University of Turku postdoctoral researcher Liisa Mäkinen says the step from human to AI monitoring of surveillance cameras is a significant one, that deserves scrutiny.
“I think it is good that citizens are critical of [issues like] who has access to the data, where the information will be used and how these are combined. I think it’s good to ask such questions,” she says.
“All of the material is entirely in our possession. Camera- or system-vendors do not have access to the captured images. The law amendment won’t largely impact lives of ordinary people because we do not save their images. Citizens’ legal protection will improve as government action can better target the right people,” Customs Director Sami Rakshit says.
The Finnish Border Guard agency has been legally able to use facial recognition since 2005, it is only used on a limited scale.
Air travel deployments in China
Chine Southern Airlines is planning to implement facial recognition for paperless flight boarding processes, and eventually to serve as the sole means of identification throughout the airport journey, Chinanews.com reports.
The airline is researching the development of automated bag-drop machines, and working on biometric data sharing between security and boarding gates.
Shenzhen International Airport has also started a pilot project to test different security check processes.
The Air Transport Association says China will pass the U.S. as the world’s largest market for air transport in 2024 or 2025.
City of Perth
The City of Perth has launched a 12-month trial of facial recognition technology on 30 cameras from its CCTV network, the ABC reports. Only three of the cameras will be able to use the software at once, and it be activated only at the request of law enforcement agencies.
The city government is being run by government-appointed commissioners after the elected city council and mayor were dismissed, and an inquiry into city operations is ongoing. City of Perth Acting Director of Economic Development and Activation Daniel High says the biometric data, which will only be held for 31 days, can help authorities respond more quickly to safety concerns and emergencies such as missing children.
Critics say there are legal questions around consent and transparency which have yet to be dealt with, however.
“We need to have a robust discussion with the community about … the types of cities we want to live in and the technology we use in them,” Monique Mann of the Australian Privacy Foundation told the ABC.
The City of Perth has a total of 480 CCTV cameras in its network.
Michigan and Massachusetts consider regulation
A Michigan Senate Committee On Judiciary and Public Safety recently discussed a proposed law ban the use of facial recognition by law enforcement in the state, according to a blog post by the Tenth Amendment Center.
SB342 was introduced in May, and requires committee approval before moving on to a vote.
In Massachusetts, meanwhile, State Senators Cynthia Creem and David Rogers, both Democrats, have introduced legislation to place a moratorium on government use of facial biometrics, The Boston Herald reports.
“There’s no protocols about who uses it and how it’s used,” Creem said, according to the Herald. “It raises the specter of a dragnet surveillance that can track anyone anywhere they’re going. Under other circumstances, you need a warrant to search things. How much is Big Sister going to be watching us, and we have no control?”
Creem is the Senate Majority Leader, and the Democrats also control the lower house, so the bill presumably has some chance of being passed.
New York school ban bill advances
A bill that would block all implementations of facial recognition in schools in New York State has advanced to the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee after a 25-4 vote by the Education Committee, GovTech reports.
The bill would ban deployments pending the findings of a study by the state’s education minister.
“Before rushing forward with implementation, I think it is prudent to have the state Department of Education … assess the reliability, cost and privacy risks associated with its use,” a statement from Assembly Member Monica Wallace, who sponsored the bill, says. “My legislation doesn’t seek to prohibit use, it simply asks that we take a closer look before moving forward and implement guidelines to ensure student privacy will be protected.”
The legislative action was spurred by the plans of Lockport City School District to launch a pilot of the biometric technology. Those tests are now being delayed for at least two weeks.
GovTech reports that school board policy allows for the system to potentially draw from a database of students who have been suspended, staff who have been suspended or placed on administrative leave, level 2 and 3 sex offenders, anyone banned from district property by the district or courts, or anyone who is believed to pose a threat.