Critics say its use is likely to be extended.
France is a world leader in technology, and French biometric company Idemia recently defeated nearly 300 first-place contenders in a US government agency’s competition for the best algorithm for identifying photos of individuals.
This only fuels the fears of groups such as the online civil liberties organization La Quadrature du Net.
He fears that the government will want to use these technological tools during the next major events that will take place in France – if Covid-19 allows it – leading to the Rugby World Cup in 2023 or the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Arthur Messaud, lawyer for La Quadrature du Net, said: “The government will want to show its technological tools to the world in the hope of being able to sell them abroad.”
Facial recognition is already used by police in France, and opponents say it will be difficult to contain the wave of technology.
Since 2012, the police have been allowed to store photos of people arrested, suspected or convicted of crimes in a database and use them – along with facial recognition software – in subsequent investigations.
When Chechen-born Khamzat Azimov was shot and killed by police in Paris in 2018 after stabbing one person to death in the street and injuring four others, police were able to identify him by taking his picture and browsing it in a database.
Such use of the technology is seen by its supporters as an argument for its wider use, but many are concerned that there is no proper oversight of how millions of photos in the hands of the security forces are used.
The “global security” law, which sparked a series of street protests, was passed in mid-April, allowing the use of drones by police under certain circumstances during protests and elsewhere.
MPs did not allow him to allow drones to send footage back to police stations for use in real time to identify protesters.
A report from the National Assembly in 2018 said police had eight million photos of people in their TAJ (processing of criminal records) database.
Another parliamentary report said officers used the facial recognition database 375,747 times in 2019.
The use of facial recognition comes up against a French law of 2019 – resulting from a European Union directive – which stipulates that a person’s biometric data can only be used without their consent in situations of ” absolute necessity ”.
La Quadrature du Net used this idea to take a case to the Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, in an attempt to stop the widespread use of facial recognition by the police.
At the same time, experiments in using the technology are continuing throughout France, especially in Nice during the 2019 Carnival where a life-size test was carried out in the streets of the city during the festival.
The CNIL, the French data protection agency, is closely monitoring these tests, which some say herald an inevitable deployment of the technology.
“This is not progress,” said Messaud, who said the government wanted to use real-time facial recognition during the yellow vests protestations.
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