Argentine judge demands answers on how police got irregular biometrics access
Argentine national security agencies have acquired irregular access to the biometric records of seven million people, including the president, and footage from Buenos Aires for identifying demonstrators via facial recognition cameras when authorized to access a list of fewer than 50,000 persons of interest, reports Página 12 via Público.
The Buenos Aires judge who discovered the scandal has now demanded explanations from the city’s Minister of Security and Justice as to how biometric data of a set of 62 cases relating to the capital, including those of the Argentine president and vice president, were transferred from the national ID database – the Registro Nacional de las Personas (ReNaPer) – to the city’s authorities, namely the police, reports Página 12/Público.
A massive breach of ReNaPer’s digital ID database was reported last year.
Judge Roberto Andrés Gallardo has suspended the use of the facial recognition system in question and has given Marcel D’Alessandro, Minister of Security and Justice for the City of Buenos Aires Government, two days to explain how the biometrics of persons such as former president and current vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and fellow former president Alberto Fernández were used. D’Alessandro had previously said that the system had been deactivated during the pandemic.
According to media reports, the City of Buenos Aires Government proposed making available to the national executive facial recognition cameras for identifying demonstrators deemed a threat to the executive. The cameras are the Fugitive Facial Recognition System (SNRP), yet among those observed were the president and vice president as well as leaders of human rights organizations.
The SNRP was intended to find those wanted by the police and its database holds the records of fewer than 50,000 persons. Judge Gallardo uncovered that leaders in Buenos Aires also signed a deal with ReNaPer. This led to queries into 9.9 million people being made of the system between April 2019 and March 2022, far beyond the number of people the courts allowed for.
It appears that the facial recognition system has been able to monitor a large part of the population. The system, established in 2019, was criticized ahead of implementation by UN spokesman on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, who said it was disproportionate to use it for detecting around 40,000 people of interest.
Judge Gallardo ordered a raid on the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Urban Monitoring Center. Representatives from Danaide S.A., who supplied the software to the Buenos Aires government were present.
Página 12 reports that there was a “suspicious moment” during the raid while security agents were migrating data for analysis. The system somehow crashed, which the company attributed to another subcontractor.
The Ministry of Justice and Security for Buenos Aires said that ReNaPer searches are not only for finding persons of interest but “respond to a plurality of procedures authorized by the justice [system].” D’Alessandro proposed the use of the capital’s camera system for the national government to identify protestors. Last week the capital’s authorities organized a campaign where anyone protesting against poverty would themselves be removed from social security schemes.
Focus on 62 cases of biometrics transfer
Judge Gallardo is demanding a full tracing report and details on the origin of the transfers and how the biometrics have been used, according to Público.
The 62 cases include high-profile individuals such as the president and vice, governor of Buenos Aires, union leaders, politicians, campaigners and journalists. Gallardo also wants to know why the system had been used beyond the order for it to be suspended.
He believes the systems should be able to supply information on the IP address of the requester for each query into the biometrics held by ReNaPer.