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Problems in Argentina’s justice system exacerbated by public facial recognition: report

Problems in Argentina’s justice system exacerbated by public facial recognition: report

A data entry error in a database used for facial recognition in Argentina has highlighted problems with the country’s justice system; problems that are made worse by the use of the real-time biometric technology in public, according to Wired.

A man whose ID number was entered for a different individual with the same name was detained in brutal conditions for six days before he was transported to the city where the crime he was accused of had taken place. Once he arrived there, the error was discovered.

The live facial recognition system that the government claims blankets three-quarters of Buenos Aires was launched in 2019, and had accumulated 140 police checks or arrests based on database errors when it was discontinued in March of 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. Local activists succeeded in a legal challenge to keep the system off in 2022.

The system is supposed to hold only the records of 40,000 people who are considered fugitives. Authorities made 10 million personal data requests of the system, however, according to Judge Andrés Gallardo, who investigated it. The personal data of prominent politicians from different parties, as well as human rights activists and journalists were searched.

A report coauthored by the city and airport police, which report to different levels of government, showed that the transparency measures supposedly in place to keep the use of facial recognition lawful were not present. The system was prone to manipulation. Records for 15,459 people who were not in the database of people wanted for serious crimes were found. Hundreds of records were also deleted.

Local company Danaide installed the cameras for the system, winning the contract six minutes after it was tendered. Gallardo was unable to find out who supplied the face biometrics algorithm, though. Biometric Update reported in 2020 that the algorithm used in Buenos Aires is supplied by NtechLab.

The City of Buenos Aires successfully sought Gallardo’s removal from the investigation, and he and former city security minister Marcelo D’Alessandro have filed lawsuits against each other.

The facial recognition system has been declared unconstitutional by a pair of judges, but it could theoretically be restored in the future.

In July, coastal resort city Mar del Plata announced plans to deploy live facial recognition in public, and a desire to use the fugitive database.

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