FNF20 looks at Biometric Mass Surveillance

In 2020, the community behind Freedom not Fear voted Biometric Mass Surveillance as the focus of its 10th edition.

Why is Biometrics Mass Surveillance so important to discuss and how does it relate to our current experiences in the public space?

Biometric data includes data about our body or behaviour and can range from fingerprint, palm veins, face recognition and DNA to palmprint, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina, typing rhythm, gait, voice and much more. Biometric mass surveillance is any monitoring, tracking, and otherwise processing of the biometric data of individuals or groups in an indiscriminate or arbitrarily-targeted manner.

Research shows that these technologies amplify discrimination and are used to persecute people who are simply exercising their rights.

As of 2020, at least 15 European countries – and counting – have experimented with biometric surveillance technologies such as facial recognition in public spaces. In the same time, in the United States, 5 major cities have now banned the use of facial recognition.

In the European Union, the rushed introduction of expensive surveillance technologies that track our faces and bodies is being done without consideration for the harms it could cause to our societies. These systems violate people’s right to conduct their daily life in privacy and with due respect for their fundamental freedoms and dignity; have a chilling effect on their freedoms of expression and assembly; and put limits on their ability to participate in public, social or democratic activities.

Given the centrality of appearance to personal identity and the general uniqueness and immutability of bodily characteristics, the use of biometric surveillance systems in public spaces can enable unlawful permanent intrusion into our autonomy, freedom and privacy on a mass scale across time and place.

The European Commission is planning to release its strategy on AI at the beginning of 2021. As part of this work, the EU Commission has explained publicly that there are significant fundamental rights impacts that arise from remote biometric identification in public. This context represents a solid justification for EU-wide civil society action.

The community behind Freedom not Fear look forward to a day of productive conversations and sizzling community action. Register today and stay tuned for the schedule announcement.
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