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Regulation and safeguards for facial recognition pondered in France, China, and Jamaica


The local government of Nice, France has been trialling biometric facial recognition software after deploying more than 2,600 CCTV cameras, and is planning to implement it at a pair of high schools, drawing a storm of complaint, Politico reports.

Privacy regulator CNIL is currently considering the legality of the deployments, though under GDPR the town did not require authorization from CNIL for a February trial of “Any Vision” software from Confidentia. The trial was considered successful by authorities, but details have not been made public.

Nice has a history of embracing public surveillance technology, according to Politico, that extends long before a 2016 terrorist attack in which 87 people died. Not everyone is satisfied, however.

“In the name of a supposedly smarter and safer city, private companies are selling their ‘Safe City’ projects, with increased surveillance of the urban space, to elected officials who lack imagination,” legal expert Martin Drago of digital rights group la Quadrature du Net.

Drago says there is no debate on facial recognition technology in France, and that “GDPR is too vast, too vague, and is not enough.”

The move to deploy facial recognition in schools is increasing concerns, with a parent’s group vocally opposing it. Technology for the project is provided by Cisco, which says the system is consent-based and respects students’ privacy.

The CNIL is expected to deliver a decision in mid-October, but a representative admitted to Politico that the legal framework for using the technology “in public spaces is a but outdated.”

Regulation coming to China

Financial regulators are planning to set rules for the use of facial recognition in payments in order to both ensure the security of transactions and protect the privacy of individuals, Economic Information Daily reports via Global Times.

“The current technology allows facial recognition from as far as three kilometers away, without the client’s consent on the operation,” People’s Bank of China Science and Technology Department Director Li Wei is quoted saying in the report. “It is a terrifying prospect.”

This is not the first time Li has warned of the seriousness of facial data, which he called “very sensitive personal information” in July. The Times also spoke to a cloud service provider engineer who suggested the prevalence of biometric systems could pose a risk to user data safety.

The use of facial biometrics for payments continues to rise in China, with Alipay’s Dragonfly and WeChat’s Frog product launched within the past year. Commercial banks are also deploying the technology, but implementations like Zao have fostered a backlash, according to Global Times.

Schools in Jamaica must seek permission

Jamaica’s Minister of Education told the country’s House of Representatives that biometric systems tracking time and attendance of teachers must be optional, according to the country’s law, Jamaica Information Service reports.

“While the Ministry understands the need for an accurate record keeping system, teachers cannot be compelled to provide biometric data, such as finger prints, to schools,” Samuda said, and referred to the specific section of the legislation that allows individuals to refuse to share their biometric data.

“There are alternative systems in place to achieve the objectives without the use of biometric data. Extensive sensitisation and consultation should be conducted prior to the implementation of any electronic system for the purpose that this was introduced,” Samuda said.

Alternative arrangements must be made in cases where permission to implement a biometric system is granted, he also told the House.

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