Europe activates a movement against biometric surveillance

Key facts:

One million signatures are required for the deployment of cameras in European countries to cease.

Human rights organizations ask governments and companies not to spy on citizens.

Access Now, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and 50 other international organizations dedicated to human rights have come together around the Reclaim Your Face initiative, in Spanish, “reclaim your face.” Its objective is to advocate for the prohibition of mass biometric surveillance in public spaces within the European Union.

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) must collect one million signatures within one year for the European Commission to consider the proposal. The movement seeks to stop the deployment of facial recognition cameras in the countries, as they consider that these technologies perpetuate discrimination and erode privacy, points to their official website.

Biometric mass surveillance is the general capture, monitoring or tracking of the unique identifying characteristics of people, ranging from facial expressions to the way of walking of citizens. European governments, police forces and private companies have been deploying facial recognition technologies in public environments such as parks, shopping malls and transport stations, without any consent or regulation.

We call on the European Commission to prohibit, in law and in practice, indiscriminate or arbitrary uses of biometrics that could lead to illegal mass surveillance. These intrusive systems must not be developed, deployed (not even on a trial basis) or used by public or private entities to the extent that they may lead to unnecessary or disproportionate interference with people’s fundamental rights.

Reclaim Your Face Movement on your website.

The site adds that it has found evidence that the uses of biometric mass surveillance in member states and by European Union agencies, have resulted in violations of data protection law and they have unduly restricted people’s rights, including their privacy, the right to freedom of expression, the right to protest and not to be discriminated against.

Thousands of cameras, more surveillance, less freedom

Concerns about the use of technology for mass surveillance have increased since a facial recognition system with thousands of cameras was introduced in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (a country in southeastern Europe).

Huawei’s surveillance system caused a lot of controversy when it was first launched in 2019. Since then, human rights and digital organizations in the country warn of the dangers that facial recognition software can pose, launched as part of a project for a safer city.

Citizens of Belgrade warn that the cameras have advanced optics that detect faces and their information is monitored, in an abusive way, by the police in real time. Source: SHARE Foundation / youtube.com

At that time, the SHARE Foundation, a Belgrade-based digital rights organization that advocates for data privacy and digital security, launched a website called Thousands of Cameras, a place where Serbian citizens share their concerns about facial recognition cameras.

“The total loss of anonymity represents a certain loss of our freedom: realizing that we are under constant surveillance drastically changes our decisions,” the site warns.

Protecting digital privacy, for years, has been a permanent concern for a growing group of citizens of the world, aware of the dangers to which personal data is exposed in cyberspace. However, in 2020 data protection has been taking on another nuance, as reported by CriptoNoticias. This is because privacy is an increasingly threatened right.