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French politicians vow legal action on alleged illegal facial recognition use by police

French politicians vow legal action on alleged illegal facial recognition use by police

A recent report that the French national police has been using a facial recognition system from Israel illegally for the past eight years has unsettled politicians in the country with some of them saying they’re taking legal action on the matter.

One of the political parties that has been irked by the development is left-wing populist party La France Insoumise, whose lawmakers are also calling for a parliamentary commission of inquiry to be set up to dig into the matter, per Actual News Magazine reporting.

Last week, allegations emerged that the French police had been using facial recognition technology since 2015, despite existing laws banning such a practice.

The investigation revealed that the French police acquired a software for surveillance image analysis from Israeli firm BriefCam which supports facial recognition.

Speaking during a recent press briefing at the National Assembly, a lawmaker of La France Insoumise, Aurélien Saintoul, called the situation a huge scandal that must be investigated.

He was quoted as saying that the use of surveillance technology that enables facial recognition goes against the EU General Data Protection Regulation, France’s Data Protection Act, and a recent decision taken by France’s top court prohibiting the use of facial recognition during next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

In the wake of the report that flung the lid open on the police use of facial recognition, the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (NCIL) — a government agency overseeing data protection issues — said it was engaging in a control process with the Interior Ministry aimed at ensuring that its actions, or those of entities under it such as the police, meet privacy and data protection requirements.

Before the concerns from La France Insoumise lawmakers were raised, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had also spoken out on the issue, rejecting the report as false. Nonetheless, the official had called for an administrative probe to establish the facts of the matter, BNN Network reports.

This revelation has further fueled concerns in France about infringements on individual liberties and privacy with the use of surveillance technologies that do not respect legislative compliance.

In March, French legislators adopted a bill that allows the police to use AI systems for surveillance purposes, without facial recognition.

In June, concerns were raised when a draft law was voted by the Senate to allow facial recognition in public, but under limited circumstances and in serious crime situations such as tracking down terrorists.

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