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Mayor of Nice calls for deployment of facial recognition following Stade de France clashes

Mayor of Nice calls for deployment of facial recognition following Stade de France clashes

The Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi called for the deployment of facial recognition technologies to prevent situations similar to the violent Stade de France clashes, which took place in the city last week.

“I wish we could use facial recognition,” Estrosi told broadcaster Europe 1 on Tuesday.

“If the police could not arrest 1,000 or 2,000 people without risking injury, if they were banned from the stadium and identified, then we could have arrested them afterward thanks to this technology.”

The Mayor of Nice added that he believes a “large number” of sports event organizers and club presidents would be in favor of it and that there are companies in France, including Thales, who are able to provide effective biometric tools that are also respectful of user privacy.

For context, similar technology is being supplied by Incode in Mexico to curb violence at soccer games, and facial recognition has also been deployed by Veridas for staff security checks at El Sadar stadium in Spain. 

The market for smart stadium technologies, including facial recognition, is forecast by Market Research Future to grow at a strong 23 percent compound annual growth rate to reach $24.3 billion by 2030.

On the live television program, Estrosi also called the CNIL (National Commission on Informatics and Liberty) a “dusty institution” (“une sorte d’institution poussiéreuse”), blaming it for obstructing the deployment of facial recognition technologies in public spaces for the processing of biometric data.

The rationale behind the CNIL’s stance is rooted in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but it is important to note that France’s legislation allows for some flexibility.

For instance, biometric technologies may be deployed in public for “important public interest reasons.”

More broadly, while the French administration seems to publicly condemn biometric mass surveillance systems, a recent report released by the Senate Law Commission paints a different picture.

In fact, while seeking to ensure France does not become a country of mass biometric surveillance, the document recommended a three-year regulatory sandbox for testing biometric mass surveillance systems.

The report was published days before 53 organizations wrote to the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to call for the ban of remote biometric identification (RBI) systems like facial recognition in publicly accessible spaces in the AI Act.

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