EU Fundamental Rights Agency looks at human rights implications of using facial recognition technology in law enforcement

Facial recognition technology (FRT) makes it possible to compare digital facial images to determine whether they are of the same person. Increasingly, private companies and public authorities are already using this technology, and several EU Member States are considering, testing or planning to use it for law enforcement purposes. While the accuracy of the technology is improving, a real risk of errors remains – particularly for minority groups. Moreover, people may not be aware their images are being captured and processed, and thus cannot challenge possible misuses. 

A new paper by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights outlines and analyses these and other rights challenges the use of FRT for law enforcement purposes poses, and presents recommendations to help avoid rights violations.

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Article
27 November 2019

Facial recognition technology: fundamental rights considerations in law enforcement

Author: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Private companies and public authorities worldwide increasingly use facial recognition technology. Several EU Member States are now considering, testing or planning to use it for law enforcement purposes as well. While this technology potentially supports fighting terrorism and solving crimes, it also affects people’s fundamental rights. A new Fundamental Rights Agency’s (FRA) paper looks at the fundamental rights implications of relying on live facial recognition technology, focusing on its use for law enforcement and border management purposes.

FRA’s paper ‘Facial recognition technology: fundamental rights considerations in the context of law enforcement’ outlines and analyses fundamental rights challenges that are triggered when public authorities deploy live facial recognition technology for law enforcement purposes.

It identifies key aspects to consider before deploying this technology in real life:

  • Legal framework ...
  • Purpose...
  • Impact on behaviour...
  • Place of use...
  • Margin of error...
  • Public procurement...
  • Impact assessment...
  • Monitoring...

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Article
27 November 2019

Facial recognition technology: fundamental rights considerations in the context of law enforcement

Author: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

...EU law recognises as ‘sensitive data’ people’s facial images, which are a form of biometric data. But such images are also quite easy to capture in public places. Although the accuracy of matches is improving, the risk of errors remains real – particularly for certain minority groups.

Moreover, people whose images are captured and processed might not know this is happening – and so cannot challenge possible misuses. The paper outlines and analyses these and other fundamental rights challenges that are triggered when public authorities deploy live FRT for law enforcement purposes. It also briefly presents steps to take to help avoid rights violations.

The paper covers the following topics:

  1. Facial recognition technology and fundamental rights: setting the scene
  2. Facial images as a unique biometric identifier in EU law
  3. What is facial recognition technology?
  4. Accuracy of facial recognition technology: assessing the risks of wrong identification
  5. Use of facial recognition technology by public authorities in the EU
  6. Fundamental rights implications of using live facial recognition: general points
  7. Fundamental rights most affected

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