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Human rights advocates criticize biometric surveillance systems in Belgrade, São Paulo

Human rights advocates criticize biometric surveillance systems in Belgrade, São Paulo

Belgrade-based human rights non-profit SHARE Foundation has investigated the 2019 partnership between the Serbian government and tech giant Huawei, which entails the deployment of one thousand biometric facial recognition cameras in the city for mass surveillance, reports Privacy International. The cameras would also have license plate recognition capabilities.

Despite sending freedom of information requests to the Ministry of Interior to learn about the location of the cameras and procedural information, the government did not make any details about the partnership public, and argued all were “confidential.” There was no Data Protection Impact Assessment as requested by law, PI says.

Serbia lacks a privacy culture, while remnants of the old regime are still prevalent in society, according to the report. Mass surveillance is still widespread due to government agencies’ access to communications metadata. The “technical and economic cooperation” between the Serbian and CHinese governments dates back to 2009 when an initial agreement was entered.

In response to the Serbian government’s surveillance project that threatens human rights and freedoms, citizens collected and shared information on where the cameras were located and used the hashtag #hiljadekamera to keep the information together. Details can be found on the platform “Hiljade kamera” (“Thousands of Cameras”), created to push for the responsible use of surveillance technology and provide more transparency into the government project. A Twitter campaign has also started where citizens share photos of the cameras.

São Paulo subway skips steps

Consumer rights organizations initiated a civil lawsuit against the São Paulo subway company (Metro) for introducing a biometric facial recognition system that does not ensure the data privacy and security of some 4 million daily users, writes ZDNet.

The new project would replace the existing infrastructure of 2,200 non-integrated cameras with 5,200 digital high-definition cameras. By rolling out a facial recognition surveillance system, the subway company wanted to improve operations and help law enforcement track criminals.

The Brazilian Institute of Consumer Protection (IDEC) stated that Metro did not provide an impact assessment report or research to sustain database security throughout the implementation process. Another concern is that the subway company did not provide data protection policies for children and teenagers, nor discuss the financial impact of a data leak.

The surveillance project “should be preceded by the wide and transparent disclosure of information of interest to users of the system,” the consumer body said.

“The ineffectiveness of technology, which is aggressive and invasive in nature, producing discriminatory actions against passengers, can worsen the already precarious experience of the public transport user, who may have their long and tiring daily journeys interrupted due to false positives,” the IDEC statement said.

The group accused Metro of attempting to put “an inefficient and dangerous system” in place without taking the necessary precautions, and therefore says it “will seek to legally defend the interests of all users of the system.”

“The (framework of the upcoming) general data protection regulations was the model used for this project, which will not employ a database with personal information nor record personal information, the priority being the increased security of Metro’s passengers,” the agency told ZDNet in a statement.

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