By Jim Nash
The politics of police facial recognition systems are changing in favor of deployment in Ireland after last week’s riot in Dublin.
Proposals to arm law enforcement with live, retrospective or both facial biometrics capabilities have been controversial. But biometrics in the hands of the police could be evolving into a law-and-order issue that’s too politically popular to seriously question.
According to local reports, social media has been used to foment violence against immigrants to Ireland, resulting in street fighting that culminated in three children being stabbed and 34 arrests. Not incidentally, there are reports that Ireland’s immigration infrastructure is straining, according to The Irish Times.
Right now, government workers are viewing countless hours of CCTV video from businesses, private vehicles, trains and buses to identify rioters, according to U.S. political-news outlet Politico.
Proponents of pervasive facial recognition are saying that it could lessen violence and increase the number of solid arrests. At the same time, there are concerns about new riots.
The Irish Times has reported that the Green Party, which had been adding friction to legislative efforts to allow facial recognition and police body cameras, appears to see biometrics in a more nuanced light.
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The paper said Green leaders don’t see algorithms as “necessarily a bad thing” so long as the enabling legislation is thoughtful , enforces scrutiny and sufficiently protects civil rights.
Sinn Féin, a political party with a long history of distrust of centralized government, has even come out offering its “full support” to Ireland’s police, the gardaí, after the riots. But while demanding some political resignations, the party apparently has said little about a tool of police investigation and potential government surveillance.
Both parties will be considering draft legislation, in the works prior to the riots, that would let the gardaí track and identify people suspected in serious crimes including murder and rape, according to Ireland’s The Journal. There are calls to move the bill ahead faster.
Its passage may be more likely now, but there remains opposition to giving the gardaí the algorithms.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has supported a ban on it, in fact, reports The Journal. The council’s hard stance was before the riots. It is not known where the advocacy stands at the moment.
Source: Biometric Update
Jim Nash is a business journalist. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Investors Business Daily, Robotics Business Review and other publications. You can find Jim on LinkedIn.
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