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Police in Japan reveal use of facial biometrics in criminal probes

The system has been trialled in the country since March
Police in Japan reveal use of facial biometrics in criminal probes

A biometric facial recognition system that matches photos of offenders with images from social media and surveillance cameras has been tested by Japanese police since March.

The announcement was made on Saturday, revealing the 6-month biometric trial.

“We are using the system only for criminal investigations and within the scope of law. We discard facial images that are found to be unrelated to cases,” a senior National Police Agency official commented, according to The Japan Times.

In Japan, the National Public Safety Commission (NPC), which is in charge of guaranteeing the neutrality of the police system, is also responsible for storing roughly 10 million facial images of citizens.

This means that, in order for the system to work, the NPC granted the police access to the database to obtain the biometric information needed.

The information was then compared to suspects’ mugshots in order to track down offenders.

Despite the potential for the new system to spark privacy concerns, the law has not changed in any way, as investigators already had access to photos from security cameras that they would manually compare.

Privacy law update addresses biometrics on private security cameras

The news of the new facial recognition system used by the Police comes days after Japan’s announcement of more stringent privacy laws.

Changing its 2005 Protection of Personal Information (APPI) Act legislation, the country has enhanced privacy laws to echo the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The new rules cover data breach reporting and the use of facial biometric data gathered from security cameras, enforcing more stringent penalties for offenders.

Law enforcement is exempt from this type of privacy regulations, however, and it is likely the new face recognition system will see wider adoption across Japan in the coming months.

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