Facial recognition under scrutiny in Ireland as PSC exec claims department does not track biometrics
The infrastructure behind Ireland’s Public Services Card (PSC), an ID credential for accessing services, does not track holders’ biometric data, claims a report by the Irish Examiner highlighting answers from the Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection, John McKeon, to the Public Accounts Committee.
According to the daily, while the PSC contains photos of holders, McKeon confirmed the card does not include face or fingerprint biometric information and therefore complies with GDPR (which allows biometric collection only on a specific legal basis). He maintains that his department also does not track biometrics.
The controversy dates back to 2017, when the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) first started investigating the potentially biometric nature of the PSC. The report on the matter, expected by 2019, was delayed due to legal issues concerning using the card in all cases other than welfare payments.
Fast forward to last Thursday, McKeon said the separate biometric investigation is now approaching its final stages. However, the executive is not sure it will be completed before the end of the year.
Face biometrics for policing is ‘controversial’
Meanwhile, a recent analysis by The Irish Times has called the decision of the Irish government to consider facial recognition technologies (FRT) for policing “an ill-advised and overly hasty move.”
The plans, unveiled by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee in May, would allow Irish police forces to speed up the identification process of suspects on CCTV footage via face biometrics software.
“The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), along with six academics working in the area, wrote an open letter to McEntee last month, noting that the use of FRT also raises serious and challenging issues about individual privacy and data rights in a world where population-level mass surveillance is no longer a dystopian fiction but an easy implementation,” the daily wrote.
The ICCL letter also calls for more significant consideration and consultation with the DPC before any legislation is published.
“In addition, major EU-level legislation is pending which considers FRTs and would potentially force immediate changes to rushed Irish legislation. The department would be wise to hold off and shape its legislation around binding guidance from the EU.”
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