Italy bans facial recognition — except for use in law enforcement

Italy bans facial recognition — except for use in law enforcement

Aside from facial recognition, the prohibition extends to infrared ‘super glasses’ used for reading license plates at night.

This week, Italy banned the use of facial recognition and ‘smart glasses’ for night vision, according to a report in Reuters. The Italian Data Protection Agency issued official stays to two municipalities that are experimenting with data collection technologies.

The privacy watchdog said that facial recognition systems using biometric data will not be allowed until a specific law is adopted — or at least until the end of next year.

The agency did allow some exceptions, however. Biometric data collection technology may be used in the course of a judicial investigation, or to “fight crime”.

“The moratorium arises from the need to regulate eligibility requirements, conditions and guarantees relating to facial recognition, in compliance with the principle of proportionality”, the privacy watchdog said in a statement.

Special conditions

Under European Union and Italian law, public entities are generally allowed to process personal data using video devices. Such use can only be permitted on public interest grounds and when linked to the activity of public authorities, the agency added.

Moreover, the privacy watchdog declared that municipalities that want to use these technologies have to enter into “urban security pacts” with central Italian government representatives.

In practice

The privacy watchdog issued the decision in response to measures undertaken in two different Italian cities. First, there’s the southern Italian city of Lecce, whose authorities had said they would begin using a technology based on facial recognition.

The agency ordered the municipality to provide a description of the systems adopted, their purpose and legal basis. They also needed to provide a list of databases accessed by its monitoring devices, the privacy watchdog said.

In a second case, the agency issued orders to the Tuscan city of Arezzo, whose local police were about to be equipped with infrared super glasses that can recognise car number plates.