Government to introduce standalone bill on facial recognition technology

Government to introduce standalone bill on facial recognition technology

A standalone bill allowing for the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) by An Garda Síochána will be brought forward later in the year, the government has announced.

The Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022, which is currently before the Dáil and will underpin the use of body-worn cameras by gardaí, will not now include provisions on FRT.

The use of FRT will instead by provided for in the separate new Garda Síochána (Digital Management and Facial Recognition Technology) Bill 2023, which will be published by the end of the year.

However, ministers have agreed that An Garda Síochána should immediately begin the procurement of bodycams which include FRT software to ensure they can be used for that purpose once the legislation comes into force.

Justice minister Helen McEntee said: “Today’s government decision allows An Garda Síochána to immediately begin the process of procuring bodyworn cameras, vital and modern policing equipment, which will better protect frontline gardaí and strengthen their ability to deliver on their duty to deter, detect and investigate crime.

“This modern technology is a key tool for frontline gardaí and represents a practical expression of our commitment to build stronger, safer communities. I believe it is essential to delivering on government’s aim to ensure An Garda Síochána is a leading edge, modern police service fit for the digital age.”

Under the forthcoming bill, FRT would only be used retrospectively to search images which are already legally in the possession of An Garda Síochána.

Mrs McEntee said: “I firmly believe that bodycams and FRT are required to ensure that An Garda Siochana is a fully equipped, modern police service operating in a digital age, but I also acknowledge that some people hold legitimate concerns around the use of such technology.

“That’s why we will introduce a number of safeguards — such as banning mass surveillance and profiling — and ensuring the code of practice for the use of FRT will be subject to approval by government and the Houses of the Oireachtas. Live FRT will not be permitted under this bill.”

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