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French football club experiments with facial biometrics for stadium access control



The football club FC Metz has allegedly rolled out a biometric facial recognition pilot for major events at its stadium in France, stirring controversy about civil liberties and privacy, writes France 24 (Google translation).

According to journalist Olivier Tesquet, the club tested the biometric technology at the stadium through video content analysis software developed by Metz-based Two-i. Minister of Sports of France Roxana Maracineanu explained the technology does not target supporters, but it is deployed to ensure security.

Concerns were expressed by Bernard Leclerc, a League for Human Rights local chapter president, who warned that previous attempts to introduce similar security measures in stadiums “were then transposed into law to all citizens with administrative bans on demonstrations developed by the prefectures.”

FC Metz and Two-i denied experimenting with facial recognition during a match. The club took to Twitter where it explained that the technology is only targeting people who are not allowed to enter the stadium, while Two-i co-founder Guillaume Cazeneuve said on local television that using the technology during a match would be “illegal.”

“There is a very specific legal framework for its use in stadiums, and the only things we did were internal tests to make sure that the facial recognition algorithm, if it needed to be used, works,” said Cazeneuve.

Hélène Schrub, director general of the club, confirmed some “technical tests” had been conducted on “volunteer staff of the start-up with a view to possible future application.”

The Minister of Sports is a supporter of facial recognition use in stadiums to fight terrorism.

“There is a real problem of fighting radicalization in France but also in the world,” said Maracineanu. “So, we have to watch over the fight against terrorism, and when we have people gathered around a sporting event, it can be very dangerous.”

“It is true that there have been attacks, but mass recognition worries us and creates an atmosphere of general suspicion,” replied the League for Human Rights. “There are American cities which are abandoning these facial recognition devices because it doesn’t work, and we are getting into it quietly when we know that it can be a means of control like in China.”

French regulator CNIL added: “The objective is to avoid discovering one day, after the fact, that, by the progressive accumulation of new use cases of this technology, by its low noise diffusion in the daily life of citizens, society would have changed without this change having been the subject of a general debate and a deliberate political choice beforehand.”

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