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Gang violence pushes Sweden to consider face biometrics as surveillance cameras multiply

Gang violence pushes Sweden to consider face biometrics as surveillance cameras multiply

The Swedish government is rushing to prepare the public for expanded police use of biometric systems including those monitoring from traffic stanchions and drones.

Gang violence that includes firearms and explosives has pushed the government and a far-Right conservative party to examine the proposed surveillance change in a fast-tracked inquiry, according to local reports.

The nation’s justice minister this week said the inquiry will be completed in half the usual time for such a body. A finding could be published by spring. Government inquiries generally are used to bury a topic or to show the public an action has been thought through. The latter is more likely in this case.

Conservative and rightward leaning parties including the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals are working together to bolster biometric surveillance, according to news outlet Euractiv. The kind of facial recognition authorized is unspecified in the report, but the references to drones and traffic cameras appears to indicate an intention to use live, rather than just retrospective, facial recognition.

Members of the inquiry will consider options including a fourfold increase in the number of cameras police can use in Sweden, according to news publication The Local. That would tie 2,500 new and existing lenses into police facial recognition algorithms by December 2023, 900 more than previously had been planned. The same set of measures would also establish a basis for the use of automated number plate recognition (ANPR, or LPR for “license plate recognition”) by police.

Euractiv reports that drones and road cameras operated by Sweden’s Transportation Administration could join the indiscriminate dragnet.

Government representatives in February were pushing this line on the European Union, and have been contemplating the idea publicly at least since 2019.

Beginning this month, police were given far broader powers to surveil. Until this month, the Säpo, a national security service, had the bulk of authority for public surveillance. Now police can eavesdrop and use other biometric identifiers to prevent gang crimes including bombings, murders, abductions and drug distribution.

Also, surveillance can be ordered on certain people and not just certain areas, according to The Local.

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