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US state, Ireland curb police use of facial recognition

US state, Ireland curb police use of facial recognition

The push and pull of police policy governing biometric surveillance has been tugged hard by privacy advocates. Law enforcement in Ireland and a large U.S. state have been restricted in how they use facial recognition.

Last week, the European Parliament voted on the European Union’s proposed Artificial Intelligence Act. The version it passed would ban the live use of facial recognition. Police could use it to review serious crime and, even then, a judge would have to sign off.

Parliament’s version will have to be meshed with two others, one by the European Commission and another by the European Council, so much could still change before year’s end, when politicians want to have a finished law. The fallout, however, has already begun.

Irish news publisher the Independent reported last week that plans by the national police, the Garda, to don bodycams with facial recognition have been “dealt a blow” by the Parliament. By Monday Minister for Justice Helen McEntee was planning to scrap an amendment to the legislation establishing the use of body-worn cameras which would have allowed them to be used with facial recognition technology, according to The Irish Times.

McEntee had defended the amendment as necessary, and according to the wishes of Garda leadership, noting that the proposal was not for live facial recognition.

Instead of being part of the Recording Devices Bill 2022, McEntee is now reportedly drafting separate legislation to allow facial recognition. That legislation would first have to be approved by a Justice Committee, and stakeholders would be consulted.

France has also advanced expansive plans for facial recognition in law enforcement as well.

The state of Illinois, on the other hand, has passed a ban on the use of facial recognition on video feeds coming from drones. Exceptions include instances when the federal government feels there is a high risk of a terrorist attack.

Police also can use the algorithms with drones when a local law enforcement agency feels that “swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence.” A search warrant would be necessary.

The State’s Attorney General has the power to investigate violations, but the language of the law does not prohibit any other legal remedy, presumably lawsuits by residents.

Illinois also has the strongest law protecting residents’ biometric privacy, the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which has humbled the biggest U.S. technology companies with large damages for violations.

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