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Ireland shows how police can ignore biometric privacy concerns and promises

Ireland shows how police can ignore biometric privacy concerns and promises

Those who see face surveillance by law enforcement as a danger to civil rights keep hoping that their warnings will stir the public or convince governments.

That was the case during an October conference in Ireland about covert police surveillance including the use of facial recognition. That conference was dominated by sobering and, for the community, familiar statistics.

Generally speaking, anyone anywhere not a middle-aged white male is at a disadvantage when facial recognition is used in relation to a crime, according to conference speakers. In fact, training models still in use by vendors, researchers and governments can tag images of Black faces with egregiously bigoted labels.

Successes by advocates, many of whom want strong restrictions if not outright bans on police use of the algorithms in Ireland, have been fewer than those for proponents.

A 2022 bill, according to some, was used to sneak in, without debate, legislation putting body cameras with facial surveillance function on police. That provision was pulled, and the Digital Management and Facial Recognition Technology Bill 2023 was signed last year.

A bill giving gardaí body cams then was created, enabling debate on the matter. But, according to the Irish Legal News, An Garda Síochána Garda was cleared to buy the cameras on the assumption that the enabling bill was definitely going to pass. An Garda Síochána is the Republic of Ireland’s police and security service.

The law would allow only retrospective use of data captured by body cams, but previous restrictions – accepted in order to buy some support from rights organizers – are being erased.

A common promise by governments around the globe who are covetous of facial recognition is that it will only be used when dealing with very serious crimes. In an Ireland Justice Department press release last updated January 31, says officials want to add riot and violent disorder to a list of surveillance-applicable offenses that stated with murder and rape.

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