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Facial Recognition Technology Takes a Step Back

Publications / Jun 30, 2020

Article written by Haim Ravia, Dotan Hammer and Adi Shoval

In a letter sent to the European Parliament, the panel of data protection authorities of the member states of the European Union (the European Data Protection Board – EDPB) expressed its concern regarding European police forces’ and enforcement agencies’ use of facial recognition app developed by Clearview AI, a US-based technology company.

The EDPB explains that the proposed use of Clearview AI’s technology implies sharing personal data with it, a privately held company established and operating outside the EU. It also involves the biometric matching of such shared data against the company’s mass and arbitrarily populated database of photographs and facial pictures accessible online. The EDPB noted that such processing lacks a legal basis and does not comply with the necessity requirement in the EU Law Enforcement Directive – the data protection legislation adopted alongside the GDPR in 2016 and governs law enforcement agencies’ personal data processing activities.

The EDPB also noted that the processing would also require the transfer of personal data of EU residents to the United States, where Clearview AI is established, and that such transfer would not be subject to the provisions of the EU-US Privacy Shield adequacy decision, nor to the EU-US Umbrella Agreement on law enforcement data sharing. To be lawful, such a transfer would have to comply with the strict conditions and requirements on cross-border data transfer set out in the Law Enforcement Directive.

Some of the concern that the EDPB expressed about the use of facial recognition technology is also shared by world-leading technology companies who decided either to suspend or completely terminate their facial recognition projects. IBM announced that it will cease its AI development projects due to concerns that the technology will be used for mass surveillance, racial profiling, and violations of basic human rights and freedoms. Amazon announced it will cease its AI development for a year, calling upon the US Congress to adopt ethical rules for the use of facial recognition technology. Microsoft announced that it will not sell facial recognition solutions to police forces in the United States until such use is regulated by federal law.

CLICK HERE to read the EDPB’s statement on Clearview AI’s technology.