Tech

French privacy watchdog says facial recognition trial in high schools is illegal

The French data protection authority has warned that plans to start trialling facial recognition tools at high schools in southern France do not comply with privacy laws and cannot legally be implemented, the regulator confirmed Tuesday.

“This installation cannot be implemented legally,” the head of the Commission Nationale de lInformatique et des Libertés (CNIL), wrote to the regional authority in charge of approving the trials, according to a letter cited by investigative website Mediapart.

The CNIL published a statement Tuesday, which comes weeks after the Swedish regulator fined a high school over a similar scheme.

In December 2018, Frances South Region, which is in charge of high schools, decided to green-light a trial of facial recognition technology in two high schools, one in Nice and one in Marseille. It also signed a partnership with U.S. tech firm Cisco to provide technology.

The project, which was on hold pending approval from the CNIL, called for the installation of so-called biometric portals — gates equipped with face-scanning tools — in front of Les Eucalyptus high school in Nice and the Ampère high school in Marseille.

The planned trial was just the latest in a series of experiments with facial recognition in France, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.

However, according to the CNIL, the plans do not comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europes sweeping privacy rules.

“Facial recognition processing is an especially intrusive biometric mechanism, which bears important risks of privacy or civil liberties invasions for the people affected,” the CNIL said.

The purposes of the use of facial recognition — to streamline student identification — can be achieved by other, less intrusive means, the regulator added.

“It is now up to the region and the high schools, which are responsible for the planned system, to draw consequences,” the CNIL said.

Non-binding opinion

The South Regions president, Renaud Muselier — a former MEP from the conservative party Les Républicains — said the CNILs decision is “a century late.”

“In a world where facial recognition is in the everyday life of millions of smartphone users, refusing projects as simple and ambitious as ours is baffling,” he said.

The CNILs assessment is, however, a victory for digital advocacy groups, teachers unions and parents, who had waged a campaign to stop the deployment of the biometric portals. Several organizations filed a suit in February before a court in Marseille to annul the regions decision. The case is ongoing.

French digital rights group La Quadrature du Net, which led the charge against the high school trials and against facial recognition in France more broadly, applauded the decision.

“The very principle of facial recognition could therefore be rejected: Too dangerous for our liberties, those automated systems should always be ruled out in the favor oRead More – Source