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Italy to limit face biometrics systems use nationwide to police

Spanish police to use facial recognition from Thales
Italy to limit face biometrics systems use nationwide to police

Italy’s watchdog Data Protection Agency has warned two municipalities experimenting with face biometrics to stop until governing legislation is adopted or at least until December 31, 2023.

There is a regulatory loophole, however. Municipalities can use facial recognition algorithms and related hardware if they are part of crimefighting or judicial investigations.

Municipalities must, however, create an “urban security pact” covering how systems will be used, and get the central government to sign on. A privacy impact statement is part of a pact.

It appears that one of the two municipalities under fire by the data watchdog, Lecce, does not have a signed pact.

“The moratorium arises from the need to regulate eligibility requirements, conditions and guarantees relating to facial recognition in compliance with the principle of proportionality,” the agency explained in a statement.

The second municipality, Arezzo, reportedly wants to give police infrared and visible light smartglasses that can capture vehicle license plates.

The watchdog does not want government leaders issuing “video devices which could involve – even indirectly – remote control of the worker’s activities,” the Agency stated.

“The Municipality of Arezzo will also have to provide a copy of the information that will be given to the interested parties, both citizens to whom the vehicles refer and personnel who will wear the devices, and the impact assessment on the processing of data concerning them.”

The warning comes months after the Italian privacy guarantor fined Clearview AI roughly $22 million for allegedly implementing a biometric monitoring network in the country without acquiring informed consent from citizens.

Spanish police deploy ABIS from Thales

A pilot of a facial recognition system for Spanish law enforcement agencies has been completed, Morning Express reports, and will be available for use in investigations of serious crimes.

The National Police, Civil Guard and other agencies will use the Cogent automated biometric identification system (ABIS) provided by Thales.

There are reported to be 5.6 million images of 3.9 million previously arrested people in the national database. The Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) has engaged with the Interior Ministry, which holds the database, to assess the project’s impact on data protection.  The same database holds the fingerprint and DNA biometrics shared through the Schengen Information System (SIS) with other EU countries for border control.

A seven-person team at the Forensic Anthropology Section within the Madrid Scientific Police General Police Station will operate the ABIS to start. The team could be increased, or the ABIS distributed to other police stations in the future.

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