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South Korean face biometrics data-sharing scandal gets worse

South Korean face biometrics data-sharing scandal gets worse

The South Korean Ministry of Justice is providing millions of illegally-acquired facial images to private companies to enable them to train biometric algorithms and build artificial intelligence (AI) identification and tracking systems across the country without data subjects’ consent.

Privacy advocates in the country had already expressed their criticism towards the surveillance project, which now seems to have a scope wider than previously realized.

In fact, according to a new investigation by the Hankyoreh, the cities of Bucheon and Ansan in Gyeonggi Province are planning to implement a ‘smart epidemiological investigation system’ using the aforementioned CCTV cameras in the coming months.

The new biometric surveillance system will be installed on up to 10,000 cameras, and would feature facial, gait, and mask recognition. The biometric algorithms are being trained on data collected from the public without notification or consent, according to the report.

From the document seen by Hankyoreh, it would appear the Korean government intends to use the system to analyze footage gathered by the CCTV control center to spot instances of new diseases across the country.

The systems may also potentially be utilized for alternative purposes, according to one unnamed official who spoke to the Hankyoreh.

However, the publication also warned that these projects heavily rely on bypassing individuals’ consent when it comes to biometric information, which would otherwise be much harder to acquire for private companies.

The point was recently echoed by MINBYUN Lawyers for a Democratic Society, who called the initiatives an ‘unprecedented violation of people’s information rights.’

MINBYUN and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) have now called for the project to be halted, as well as requesting a meeting with the head of the Ministry of Justice.

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