Gardai to be Given Powers to use Facial Recognition Technology

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is expected to make an announcement about Gardai being given new powers to make use of facial recognition technology later today. 

In a move that has been strongly criticized by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Gardai are to be given access to the technology which will be used alongside artificial intelligence coupled with broadened surveillance powers.

This will allow them access to thousands of images captured on CCTV, in order to identify criminals. 

Gardai will be able to feed an image of a missing person or  suspect into an online database which will search for a match. 

Civil liberty and privacy campaigners have expressed great concern over the move highlighting what they see as the possibility of discrimination. 

CCL legal officer Doireann Ansbro is reported to have said that data from other juristictions had shown that  the facial-recognition technology had led to ethnic, racial and gender biases and “has enabled mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance”.

In 2021, The Guardian reported on controversial Australian data collection firm, Clear View AI,  after a watchdog exposed that the company collected thousands of images of Australians without their permission.

Australia’s information and privacy commissioner,  Angelene Falk,  found that ClearView AI was collecting images online. This practice is known as scraping where thousands of images that private individuals casually upload to social media platforms like Instagram, FaceBook, and TikTok are collected and stored. 

ClearView AI was ordered to delete the images within 90 days and to cease any further scraping activities. It was also revealed that the company, which is US based, had offered trial services to police in Australia.  

Following the watchdog’s revelations, the commissioner stated that, “When Australians use social media or professional networking sites, they don’t expect their facial images to be collected without their consent by a commercial entity to create biometric templates for completely unrelated identification purposes,” 

She continued by adding, “The indiscriminate scraping of people’s facial images, only a fraction of whom would ever be connected with law enforcement investigations, may adversely impact the personal freedoms of all Australians who perceive themselves to be under surveillance.”

Despite this harsh criticism ClearView AI has said that it operates legitimately in Australia and intends to appeal the commissioner’s ruling.

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