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Report released by Justice Committee on An Garda Síochána facial recognition bill

Report released by Justice Committee on An Garda Síochána facial recognition bill

In Ireland, the Justice Committee released a pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Facial Recognition Technology Bill that would determine how An Garda Síochána would use the technology.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Digital Rights Ireland, the Data Protection Commission, and academic experts, among others, have also voiced concerns with the technology.

These entities note wanting clarity on how police intend to use the technology as well as what image reference databases they would be leveraging and how a reference database would be formed if An Garda Síochána decided to make their own.

While An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice have committed to not introducing live FRT, the current scheme should be redrafted to prevent loopholes around the commitment.

There was a push for the bill to be passed more quickly in response to the riots that took place in Dublin last year. Some argue that attempts have been made in the past to alter this bill to approve FRT use for police without an opportunity for debate. A similar attempt was made with the Digital Management and Facial Recognition Technology Bill, which passed in 2023 sans a provision greenlighting gardaí use of FRT.

At a recent hearing for the bill, Data Protection Commission (DPC) told the committee that the general scheme, which allows An Garda Síochána to use facial recognition on any image or video it can lawfully obtain, offers “little clarity as to what is intended” and that “significant work remains to be done in order to ensure that usage of FRT respects the requirements of data protection law.”

The DPC expressed concern that public databases of facial images that already exist could have biometric identification applied to them without preventative safeguards in place, which is a violation of personal freedoms.

In the scrutiny report, the Law Society of Ireland says the overall scheme was “silent on the oversight of the use of biometric identification systems.”

“There is a requirement that An Garda Síochána keep a record of all applications,” it continues, “but it is not clear whether such records will be reviewed by an independent authority to ensure that the use of biometric data is used in a proportionate manner.” Such high-risk data should require stronger oversight.

The Joint Committee on Justice said necessity and proportionality requirements should be put in place to determine what specific aims the technology is seeking to achieve and whether the benefits outweigh the restrictions that the technology puts in place. Necessity and proportionality assessments should be part of the operations of a FRT system leveraged by police. This should include performance metrics across race and gender.

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