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EU Citizens Initiative calls for ban on biometric mass surveillance systems

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A European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI), ‘Civil society initiative for a ban on biometric mass surveillance practices,’ has been registered by the European Commission, calling for a permanent end to the disproportionate uses of biometric data in ways which can lead to mass surveillance or any undue interference with fundamental rights. Dozens of civil society groups have supported the movement.

The ECI was made part of the Lisbon Treaty in 2012, and introduced as an agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens. An ECI allows for 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose legal acts in areas where the Commission has the power to act. Since 2012, 76 Citizens’ Initiatives have been registered.

This initiative for a ban on certain biometric applications urges the Commission to cease their development and deployment of arbitrarily-targeted biometric systems, even on a trial basis, recalling actions by EU agencies which have resulted in violations of EU data protection law. Under such law, the processing of biometric data is forbidden except where there is a “substantial public interest,” subject to strict necessity and proportionality requirements.

Should the ECI receive one million statements of support within one year from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react within six months. The initiative hopes to gain transparency, protection from discrimination and respect through the Reclaim Your Face movement, which opposes biometric mass surveillance systems.

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