Human rights groups slam planned biometrics policing program

Human rights groups slam planned biometrics policing program

A new police program to scan people’s faces and fingerprints violates international human rights standards on privacy and is likely to accentuate existing discrimination, Human Rights Watch and Homo Digitalis warned on Tuesday. 

Under the EU-funded program, law enforcement authorities would use hand-held smart devices to collect biometric information from people on a vast scale and cross check it against police, immigration, and private sector databases primarily for immigration purposes.

The technology would most likely exacerbate racial profiling, the groups warned, while urging Greek authorities to halt plans for the program.

“The European Commission is funding a program that will help Greek police to target and harass refugees, asylum seekers, and minority groups,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

“In a country where the police frequently demand to see documents without reasonable cause, this program would deliver a tech-driven tool to ramp up abuse,” she said.

The Greek police signed a contract with Intracom Telecom, a global telecommunication systems vendor, to help develop the “smart policing” program in 2019. The deal, amounting up to 4.5 million euros, is 75 percent funded by the EU Commission’s Internal Security Fund.

Its launch, initially planned for early 2021, has been delayed for August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This policing program is in fundamental conflict with the essence of human dignity and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in public spaces,” said Konstantinos Kakavoulis, co-founder of Homo Digitalis, a Greek digital rights organization. 

“The Greek government should not ignore the high risk this program will pose for enabling unchecked control if it is launched,” he said.

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