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Ireland to share face biometrics with EU to tackle crime on wider scale

Ireland to share face biometrics with EU to tackle crime on wider scale

Ireland will share the face biometrics of suspects and convicted criminals with other European Union countries, the Irish Examiner reports.

The decision to update relevant laws was made by the Oireachtas, Ireland’s national parliament, which also approved the adoption of the updated EU Prum system to enable Ireland to share police records with other EU law enforcement agencies.

Prior to the update, the Prum system only allowed member states to share DNA, finger biometrics and vehicle registration information in aid of specific investigations.

“At present, connections are made on a member-state-to-member-state basis, resulting in duplication of effort and expense,” Justice Minister Helen McEntee, a supporter of Prum II, told the Examiner.

Prum II has a central router that will “act as a message broker and, once a connection is established with it,” McEntee said, “each member state will be connected to all other member states that have connected.”

It is important because there are cases in which the only lead police have in a crime is from a security camera. Sharing face biometrics will substantially aid such investigations, she said.

However, privacy advocates, including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and certain European bodies, warned against the dangers of mass surveillance.

“The facial image proposals promise much in terms of effectiveness in catching criminals, but there are civil liberties concerns,” said Sinn Féin Kerry TD Pa Daly.

“Data being available only on a hit, no-hit basis, with no provision for generalized access, is welcome,” Daly added.

McEntee said the exchange of facial images will not mean live facial recognition of crowds in public spaces. Nor is using artificial intelligence for facial comparisons currently contemplated.

Moreover, she said, Prum II’s router will hold no data, and member states will still own and control their data.

The decision comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Irish police, with the Oireachtas justice committee issuing new recommendations in January suggesting cameras worn by Garda not use facial recognition technology or be used to racially profile people.

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