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Privacy advocates upset at back-door tactics for Irish facial recognition law

Privacy advocates upset at back-door tactics for Irish facial recognition law

Opponents in the Irish government to police use of facial recognition with body cameras are expressing alarm at what they say is cloakroom maneuvering to hide deployment decisions.

Ireland’s Sunday Independent reported last weekend that Drew Harris, garda commissioner, tried behind closed doors to get permission for biometric algorithms inserted into a body-cam bill that is being debated. The garda is the nation’s police force.

The deputy head of government, Micheál Martin, agrees with Harris about including enabling legislation for facial recognition in a body-cam law.

An internal argument about the issue within the political coalition supporting the body-cam bill threatens to spill over into related matters.

Privacy advocates are pointing to the pro-algorithm effort as proof that the public will be kept in the dark about facial recognition decisions and operations generally. Members of the Green and Labour parties are among those concerned.

They are demanding that complex proposed biometrics rules be addressed in their own bill, not tucked into another one, which could abbreviate and dilute debate on the matter.

For his part, Martin has said he only wants to give the garda facial recognition capabilities for defined and limited instances and discussed investigations of child abuse.

The European Union has embedded facial recognition surveillance and matching into its as-yet still unfinished Artificial Intelligence Act. Opponents of the product so far are critical about how technical standards groups are being left to deal with human rights protections and impacts.

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