MEPs raise concerns on EU plans for police facial recognition database


The European Commission and Council want to extend the 'Prüm Decisions' - which mandate the interlinking of national DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration databases - to include facial recognition. At a hearing last week, MEPs and experts raised serious concerns over the idea.

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MEPs raise concerns on EU plans for police facial recognition database (EurActiv, link):

"MEPs on the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee have questioned EU plans to establish a bloc-wide facial recognition database for use by police authorities, citing the potential abuse of data as well as the likelihood of false positives.

As part of a planned extension of the EU’s 2008 Prum Decision, which allows for the exchange of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data, member states have proposed that police authorities be given powers that permit them to share facial images.

Under the so-called ‘next-generation Prum’ plans, MEPs were told by experts on Tuesday (22 September), that there could be certain challenges to privacy rights that arise as part of the introduction of new data categories into the agreement, such as facial images.

Dr Niovi Vavoula, from Queen Mary University of London, told MEPs, the risk of ‘false positives’ and the possibility of ethnic minorities being unfairly targeted due to algorithmic bias are among the concerns."

The plans have been in the works for some time. A 'Study on the feasibility of improving information exchange under the Prüm decisions' was published by the European Commission in May this year:

A more critical study was presented at the parliamentary hearing last week: Police Information Exchange: The future developments regarding Prüm and the API Directive (pdf)

The Council also launched a series of "focus groups" to look at a host of ways to expand the Prüm system - not just with facial recognition technology, but through the networking of national ID, passport and other document registers and by allowing more extensive exchange of fingerprint, DNA and vehicle registration data.


Statewatch backs the campaign run by EDRi calling for a Europe-wide ban on biometric mass surveillance. See: Ban biometric mass surveillance! (EDRi, link):

"Across Europe, highly intrusive and rights-violating facial recognition and biometric processing technologies are quietly becoming ubiquitous in our public spaces. As the European Commission consults the public on what to do, EDRi calls on the Commission and EU Member States to ensure that such technologies are comprehensively banned in both law and practice."

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