Facial Recognition Sparks Warning From EU Privacy Panel

(Bloomberg) -- European Union data protection authorities sounded the alarm over the unfettered use of biometric data and controversial facial-recognition technology, urging companies and agencies to consider “less intrusive” tools.

In guidelines published Thursday on processing personal data through video devices, a panel of regulators said there were “heightened risks” from the use of biometric data and “in particular facial recognition.”

“It is crucial that recourse to such technologies takes place with due respect to the principles of lawfulness, necessity, proportionality and data minimization as set forth in the GDPR,” the EU body said, referring to the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Companies “should first of all assess the impact on fundamental rights and freedoms and consider less intrusive means to achieve their legitimate purpose of the processing.”

Facial recognition is an emerging technology that has been heavily criticized by human-rights groups and regulators for its intrusion on privacy. The European Commission, the EU’s executive authority, is separately weighing new obligations for public authorities around the deployment of facial recognition technology and more detailed rules on the use of such systems in public spaces.

The EU’s data protection rules, in effect since May 2018, give regulators unprecedented fining powers for serious violations of people’s privacy rights.

The Metropolitan Police in London last week announced it would deploy live facial-recognition cameras around the city, an effort that was immediately criticized by human-rights group Liberty as a “sinister step” that will push the U.K. into a surveillance state.

In response, the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office said it’s received assurances that the authorities are taking steps to reduce intrusion and comply with data-protection legislation. It said facial recognition is “an important new technology with potentially significant privacy implications for U.K. citizens.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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