Concerns on facial recognition camera projects
Two years after a comprehensive surveillance system with thousands of facial recognition security cameras was introduced on the streets of Belgrade, the Serbian capital, there is growing concern about the impact of the technology.
The Huawei-based monitoring system sparked controversy when it was initially introduced in 2019. And now human and digital rights organizations are coming back to the country and warning them about the risks that facial recognition software can bring.
During the summer of 2020, the Belgrade-based digital rights organization SHARE Foundation, advocating data privacy and digital security, launched a launch “Thousands of cameras”, As a place where Serbian citizens could share their concerns over a large-scale surveillance project. “This total loss of anonymity represents a definite loss of our freedom – the awareness that we are under constant surveillance drastically alters our decisions,” it warns.
People responded to the initiative and started collecting photos and photographs of cameras that have already been installed and indicate their exact locations.
“This type of infrastructure will allow mass surveillance of all citizens of Belgrade, keeping in mind that the police had already confirmed that they would use ID cards for identification purposes. This is a huge power That anyone who has access to the system will benefit, and it seems so. The Share Foundation director Danilo Krivoekpic told ZDNet, “There are not enough safeguards to prevent the misuse of such power.”
During the past year, there were several critical moments that have highlighted concerns about the introduction of such systems.
In May 2020, mass rallies took place in Belgrade in support of the Serbian government organized by the ruling party in Belgrade, as the country was gearing up for parliamentary elections in June.
Serbian President Alexander Vucic later gave a statement, in which he said that the exact number of people present at the rally – there are 5,790 supporters of the ruling party. This prompted a debate in Serbian about whether surveillance systems were actually deployed to monitor and count the number of people in rallies and protests.
A second event came in July 2020, soon after the elections. The government, which won the elections, wanted to add stern steps against the COVID-19 epidemic in the country and re-implement the lockout.
Vucic faced protests where police had to use force to disperse the protesters. After this happened, the human rights organization Amnesty International warned of a “credible report” of police use of facial recognition cameras in Belgrade to identify protesters.
“Amnesty International opposes the use of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance, such as protests and demonstrations. The new technology is still largely unregulated and inconsistently targets specific groups of people, with the right to protest Can have a drastic effect on. ” Organization Noted In its report
According to Krivokapic, the initiative that the SHARE Foundation has taken is a part of the establishment and opposition to biometric surveillance, not only in Serbia, but across Europe. Retrieve protest.
“It is clear that deploying biometric mass surveillance on the streets of Belgrade would be illegal and against privacy rights, as it cannot be considered necessary and proportional in a democratic society, a requirement proposed by both national and international legal . Outline in this area. “Krivokapik explains.
While Serbian authorities have generally kept quiet about the scope of the project, an official document from the Serbian Interior Ministry showed That the total number of cameras used for surveillance systems is up to 8,100. In addition to 2,500 cameras on the traffic poll, the police purchased 3,500 mobile cameras, 600 cameras for police vehicles and 1,500 body cameras as a part of police uniforms.
Meanwhile, tech companies are rolling out various cameras The projects Even elsewhere in Eastern Europe – one of them is currently being implemented in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Ukrainian authorities plan to install more than 3,000 cameras on main roads and highways in Kiev.
While an analytical facial recognition system has taken place in Kiev since 2019, data privacy activists have Warn When it comes to this type of technology, there is a lack of legal clarity.
And there has been much discussion about facial recognition deficiencies across Europe as well. As ZDNet previously reported, the Council of Europe has recently published new guidelines that should be followed by governments and private companies considering the deployment of facial recognition technologies. Some of those guidelines include strict parameters and criteria that law enforcement agencies must follow when they find it appropriate to use facial recognition devices.
When some governments and companies are against it and others are embracing it, there is a debate about the use of citizens’ facial recognition, in the case of Serbia itself, as citizens, about this and similar technologies The final can be said. Will be used in future.