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Facial recognition in the way of law allowing Irish police forces to wear body-cams

Facial recognition in the way of law allowing Irish police forces to wear body-cams

A coalition composed of Green Party Parliamentarians (Teachta Dála or TD) and Senators in Ireland has agreed upon the need to allow police forces (Garda Síochána) to wear body cameras but said that facial recognition should not be implemented as part of the legislation.

According to a recent analysis by The Irish Times, the Junior Coalition’s spokesman, Patrick Costello, and Waterford TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh said the An Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 in its current state would have significant negative implications for human rights.

The politicians also voiced concerns about bias in facial recognition, especially related to demographic, age, and gender. They added that the Bill should have undergone pre-legislative scrutiny before being brought to the Parliament (Dáil) for discussion and potential approval.

“There’s a huge amount to be considered on it and, as I said in the Dáil, I don’t think a committee-stage amendment gives enough space for that,” Ó Cathasaigh is quoted saying. “The [facial-recognition] technology isn’t very good at the moment, which is one thing, but it’s a real and significant rebalancing of civil liberties as well.”

Costello echoed Ó Cathasaigh’s views, adding that since the EU is on track to complete its work on artificial intelligence (AI) regulation in 2024, the proposed Bill, if approved, will be pre-empting a directive to which the nation would be obliged to comply. The EU is currently racing to pass its AI Act by the end of this year.

The Recording Devices Bill was introduced in the Dáil last week by Justice Minister Simon Harris, who said facial recognition in police systems would aid the Garda Síochána in going through hours of footage to identify suspects much more efficiently.

On that occasion, Harris acknowledged diverging parliamentarians’ position on the matter but also said he would like the Bill to be enacted in time to enable Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to pilot the body-worn cameras later this year.

Harris’ Bill builds on plans first designed by former Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

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