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Irish skepticism of facial recognition use by cops seems born out in Scotland, Canada

Irish skepticism of facial recognition use by cops seems born out in Scotland, Canada

A civil liberties group in Ireland is warning government officials that police use of facial recognition for investigations – illegal now in the nation – could become “normalized in all areas of public life.”

It is hard to argue that the Irish Council for Civil Liberties is just participating in academic slippery-slope debate tactics.

There are two examples close to home indicating that governments quickly lose sight of the biometric surveillance’s unique and ongoing risks. The concern is that police use of biometrics will get the same oversight as routine zoning issues.

In Scotland, the biometrics commissioner reportedly has told reporters that he is frustrated that no government minister has met with him in the 18 months following his appointment.

According to an article in The Sunday Post, Brian Plastow claims he has yet to see in an official setting the Justice Secretary or the Community Safety minister.

Plastow, a former police chief superintendent, told the Post that civil service gatekeepers are zealous in their access-management jobs. Maybe they are keeping specifically him away from policy makers “but who knows?” he said.

Several time zones west, in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reportedly faces the prospect of having its privacy protection unit collapse for lack of resources.

News publication The Globe and Mail says it has seen an internal report that states funding and staff shortages in the police agency’s National Technologies Onboarding Program are jeopardizing its mission.

The program, not yet two years old, exists to make sure police adhere to national privacy laws when using biometric surveillance tools. Its mandate is broader, however. According to the Globe and Mail, the program is now monitoring almost 50 police surveillance technologies.

Government forecasts reportedly call for the program to have 15 employees and a fixed $3 million budget. In April, the unit had only four employees with 12 support employees who work in other sections of the mounted police.

Meanwhile, back in Ireland, facial recognition skeptics and opponents are asking the Justice Minister to consult with them before deciding on the use of the algorithms.

The coalition has told Minister Helen McEntee that facial recognition is not appropriate for police work, according to reporting by The Irish Times.

McEntee has reportedly said that biometric recognition is being safely and ethically being used by multiple law enforcement agencies.

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