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Comparitech facial recognition report highlights growing, variable global market



China retains its status as the country with the most face biometrics-based surveillance in a new report. Research service Comparitech analyzed the global top 100 most populated countries’ facial recognition technology (FRT) use within government, police, airports, schools, banking, workplaces, and public transport, finding varying amounts of use.

Each country was scored 0 to 5 points in each category, 5 being no evidence of use or a ban on the technology, and 0 being invasive use. China ranked top of the list for extensive facial recognition technology use and widespread surveillance practices, whilst several poor or worn-torn countries were found to have the least widespread use of facial recognition surveillance.

Experts predict that the global facial recognition market will more than double from $3.8 billion in 2020 to $8.5 billion in 2025, says Comparitech, accelerated by demand for contactless services during the pandemic.

Belgium is the only country to have banned the use of face biometrics, the report says, though while 70 percent of police forces globally have access to them, Belgian police are allowed usage under tight regulation. Most countries whose police had no access to facial recognition technology are in Africa, though this may change as safe city schemes are implemented across some African countries.

Comparitech previously investigated European governments’ citizens privacy protection practices, finding loopholes around data sharing under GDPR.

FRT use at borders is growing, for example Iceland and Pakistan announced implementation in 2020, 20 percent of countries analysed by Comparitech use facial recognition widely across national and international borders, though this is likely due to lack of funding rather than opposition to the technology.

Use of facial recognition within forms of banking is widespread across the majority of American, Oceanian, Asian, and European countries including for making payments, opening accounts, or providing proof of life. Comparitech did not find evidence to show growing use of face biometrics in North African countries.

When it comes to COVID-19, findings are similar to general country-use of face biometrics, therefore Comparitech suggests that once facial recognition is in use within a country, its expansion into other areas is more likely. While some countries include biometrics in general within data privacy regulations, many do not specifically address facial recognition technology how it is used, nor do some have citizen protection practices, so it remains crucial for legislation to keep up with the growth of this type of technology.

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