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São Paulo to proceed with citywide facial recognition program

São Paulo to proceed with citywide facial recognition program

A mass deployment of facial recognition cameras is coming to São Paulo. The Court of Justice overturned a legal suspension of procurement for the program, which was enacted over concerns about data protection and racial bias.

“There is no substantiated evidence indicating that the implementation of video surveillance would exacerbate social and racial discrimination,” said Paolo Lorena, a rapporteur for the city. His statement refutes concerns, expressed by a judge in the 3rd Public Treasury Court, that facial recognition cameras could pose a notable threat to fundamental rights.

Bids can now commence to find a provider for the Smart Sampa system, a network of 20,000 cameras equipped with advanced facial recognition capability, and the ability to store and cross-reference time, location and biometrics.

Government officials said that to allay concerns about misuse, they looked to the EU for recommendations and standards. The Smart Sampa system will observe a threshold of at least 90 percent parity, meaning it must make a confident ID for authorities to act. Furthermore, the city pledged facial recognition would only be used for public safety and would comply with the General Law of Data Protection, to ensure the safe storage of personal biometric data.

Facial recognition technology in various public scenarios has been an on-again, off-again affair in São Paulo. Judges in more than one court have ordered holds on the deployment of cameras using face biometrics in the city’s metro stations. Currently, the metro system houses 1,400 cameras across 18 stations on its 3-Red line, employing face biometrics technologies provided by ISS (Intelligent Security Systems).

Elsewhere in Brazil, authorities enlisted Clearview AI and used facial recognition to identify supporters of outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro, who stormed the country’s congress after his election defeat in January 2023.

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