May 2023. In light of recent media coverage pointing to Ireland State officials’ support of ever expanding uses by An Garda Siochana of facial recognition technologies (collectively, policing FRT), experts will brief officials on FRT in the Oireachtas AV Room on Wednesday, 17 May, 2023 from noon until 1pm. We itemise our concerns, along with the technical and democratic requirements necessary for use.

Download the brief

We will submit that proposals to date:

Are ethically and technically unsound. The proposal is for Gardaí to record their interactions with the public, store those recordings indefinitely, be able to take faceprints and tag each member of the public to each interaction, then under certain circumstances deploy AI algorithms to estimate whether each member of the public is of interest to AGS in certain investigations.

Represent mass surveillance of our entire population by our police force, which represents a fundamental erosion of freedom for all citizens. Privacy  is a fundamental right that should be firmly supported by legislators. These rights are enshrined in law and can only be limited in manners that are strictly necessary in a democratic society. A common argument put forward for this mass surveillance in Ireland is that it would reduce the number of hours required for Gardaí to review video footage. This is an argument of convenience, not one of strict necessity. The proposed uses for this mass surveillance are also contrary to the presumption of innocence.

Will impact the role of Gardaí in our society and their relationship with the public. Gardaí in Ireland are broadly supported by the public with much of their work done through positive informal interactions. The use of body cams, FRT and AI would mean that every interaction the public now have with the Gardaí would now be recorded and stored forever, with AGS able to tag the faceprint of each member of the public to each interaction, and then deploy AI systems to see if those people should be questioned in relation to a future investigation. This turns members of AGS into roaming surveillance units and fundamentally fractures the relationship between members of AGS and the public.

Will create numerous risks and biases associated with FRT and AI use in policing. As the risks, biases and harms attached to this specific type of AI have become apparent, large tech companies including Microsoft, IBM and Amazon have backed away from selling it to police. Axon, one of the largest manufacturers of police body cameras in the world, has refused to sell it. There is evidence of people of colour being more likely to be targeted for questioning and arrest by police.

Will conflict with the EU’s new AI Act. The EU is set to ban the use of facial recognition technology for policing in all but the most serious of circumstances. The original proposal for the use of FRT and AI in Ireland would be illegal under the current EU AI Act.

Conflict with parliamentary and democratic requirements in Ireland. It is being proposed that the legislation required would be added to the Committee Stage of an existing Bill. As such, there would be no pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Justice. The Second Stage Dáil debate would also be bypassed. There is no explanation for why parliamentary scrutiny should be bypassed. In addition, as of April 2023, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) advised that the State has not yet met its statutory obligation to formally consult with the DPC. In addition, the report for the Government into the use of FRT and AI for policing, completed in 2022, has not yet been published.

Are not aligned with the global move towards bans and severe restrictions on the use of artificial intelligence and FRT in Western democracies. In the Netherlands, use of AI to detect fraud was brought to an immediate halt by the courts. Here in Ireland, in their pre-legislative report (p8) on the Recording Devices Bill, the Joint Committee on Justice specifically recommended that FRT not be used by members of An Garda Síochána. Facial recognition was banned between 2019 and 2021 in over 20 cities in the US including cities in California and Massachusetts.

Policing FRT. 10 May 2023 Oireachtas brief
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