The use of facial recognition technology in the European Union 

According to a new study, 11 European countries are already using facial recognition technology as part of their law enforcement policies, and another 8 are due to follow. 

This has resulted in fresh warnings about the impact that this change – along with other new technologies – could have on fundamental human rights. 

The report shows that police in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, and the Netherlands already use biometric recognition systems as part of their investigations for criminal cases. 

It was also predicted that another eight countries –  Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden – would start utilizing the technology soon. 

Currently, facial recognition technology is only used in these countries for “ex-post identification” purposes. This is where footage is checked after the incident has occurred, and not in real-time. 

However, the author of the study Francesco Ragazzi warned that “The distinction between “real-time” and “ex-post” is irrelevant when it comes to the impact of these technologies on fundamental rights. Ex-post identification carries, in fact, higher potential of harm, as more data can be pooled from different sources to proceed to the identification.” 

How is facial recognition used? 

There are some groups that are calling for a ban on the use of facial recognition. But, the authorities frequently point out that it has a number of benefits. 

At the moment, facial recognition software is the most developed type of biometric identification. Images are captured and then compared and matched to others stored in a database. 

The authors of the study say there are serious risks to European citizens’ rights, such as “non-cooperative searches”, or trying to identify a person without their consent. They also raise concerns about other issues, like mass surveillance. 

In addition to this, the study notes that there’s a risk that, in the long-term, it could normalize surveillance, and monitoring individual behavior could have a negative effect on freedoms. 

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