Privacy observer complains to Greek data protection head about police biometric project

Privacy observer complains to Greek data protection head about police biometric project

Greek internet privacy advocate and European Digital Rights (EDRi) observer Homo Digitalis has raised questions about the legality of the biometric data processing activities proposed in the smart policing project initiated last year by Hellenic Police in an official letter to the Minister of Citizen’s Protection.

In 2019, the police entered a €4 million (US$4.3 million) contract with Intracom Telecom, mostly funded by the Internal Security Fund (ISF) 2014-2020 of the European Commission. Under the partnership, police units and patrols would be equipped with smart devices with biometric facial recognition and automated fingerprint identification. Officers would use them to identity people but to also take photographs and collect fingerprints on the spot to cross-match them with data in central databases. The system would be operational in spring 2021.

Homo Digitalis now requests clarifications on the initiative, based on the provisions of the Directive 2016/680 (LED) and the Greek Law 4624/2019 implementing it. The organization has also reached out to find out if the police contacted the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (DPA) and conducted a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA).

The Hellenic Police replied in February 2020 but did not give a clear answer on whether it had concluded the DPA or if a DPIA had been conducted.

Dissatisfied with the reply and public authorities, Homo Digitalis sent an opinion request to the Hellenic DPA. Homo Digitalis says biometric data processing is allowed only if “authorized by Union or Member State law, if absolutely necessary, and if it is subject to appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of the individual concerned.” In this case, these criteria do not apply, the organization said, warning that device use is not justified and could jeopardize people’s rights and freedoms.

A recent report suggests the European Union is considering standing up a continent-wide database of facial recognition biometrics for law enforcement use.

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