A damning investigation by the NGO Disclose reveals that the French police have been secretly using the Israeli facial recognition software Briefcam for many years. The CNIL announces a control procedure…
Officially, the use of facial recognition software by the authorities is strictly forbidden in France. In reality, however, it would appear that police allow themselves to circumvent this law…
A published by the NGO Disclose on November 14, 2023 reveals that “ in 2015, the French authorities secretly acquired a software package video surveillance image analysis software from the Israeli company Briefcam “.
Since then, ” for eight years, the Ministry of the Interior concealed the use of this toolwhich allows the use of facial recognition “.
According to the official website, this software allows you to “. detect, track, extract, classify and alert on persons of interest appearing in a surveillance video in real time or forensically “.
Illegal use of Briefcam revealed in leaked e-mails
The serious accusations made by the investigative journalists are far from unfounded. They claim to have had access to internal emails and documents of the national police force, constituting evidence of the illegal use of Briefcam.
If this information is confirmed, it would be a violation of the French Data Protection Act 2019 update to align with the RGPD that came into force in 2018 throughout the European Union.
These two laws prohibit “ the use of a biometric identification system, the processing of biometric data, or the implementation of a facial recognition technique “.
According to Disclose, the Ministry of the Interior is perfectly aware that the police are using this Israeli software. A high-ranking official from the National Directorate of Public Security (DNSP) is said to have sent an email to his superiors leaving little room for doubt.
The message stresses that ” whatever the software used (in particular Briefcam)it is forbidden to turn to a facial recognition or association device “.
For his part, Briefcam’s European Sales Director Florian Leibovici admits that police stations in over a hundred towns and cities use the software.
The CNIL launches a control procedure, and envisages 4 scenarios
Following the publication of this survey, the CNIL announced on Wednesday on X the launch of a ” control procedure “ vis-à-vis the Ministry of the Interior.
In the eyes of Vendée MP Philippe Latombe, also a member of the CNIL, “ the real questions are : how is facial recognition performed and by whom? “.
He believes that there are four ways of answering these two questions. The first possibility is that the police use Briefcam “ without using biometric tools and under the supervision of the of a judge “.
In this case, there would be no a priori no legal problem. Second hypothesis: police use facial recognition tools for a specific search and under the supervision of a judge.
Here again, even if there is no legal basis, it would still be acceptable in a way because of the supervision of a judicial authority in the context of an investigation.
On the other hand, if the police use facial recognition tools to generalized scanning of faces under supervision of a judge, this would be tantamount to a mass surveillance prohibited by French and European law.
In the worst-case scenario, the police do this. scanning without any supervision. This would be an outright violation of existing laws.
Nevertheless, for the time being, based on the information provided to him, Latombe believes that Briefcam has been used to a posteriori investigations using research methods such as facial recognition.
He would not be a question of generalized scanningand a judge appears to have supervised the operation. The seriousness of these actions therefore remains relatively low…
The Cornelian dilemma of facial recognition
Anyway, the use of facial recognition is a thorny debate. Should confidentiality and or national security? ? The question remains open, particularly at a time when the threat of terrorism is at its height.
In As part of the Paris 2024 Olympic GamesFrench law has been relaxed, and algorithmic video surveillance devices will be tested under CNIL supervision.
In April 2023, Parliament passed a bill allowing the use of algorithmic video surveillance. cameras and drones to find out more quickly potentially dangerous “events” and report them to safety teams.
According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmaninthis decision is linked to the need to secure the millions of visitors of this major global sporting event. He also promises that facial recognition will not be used.
However, several voices were raised against this choiceThese include left-wing elected representatives and associations such as Amnesty International and La Quadrature du Net. To find out more, read our full report on the subject!
And you, are you for or against the use of facial recognition video surveillance in France?