The Paris Olympics in 2024 will be without facial recognition

The introduction of facial recognition in public space for security purposes is not planned for the Paris Olympics in 2024. A specific text would be needed, which does not exist today. The government dismisses this prospect.

Facial recognition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, for public security purposes? This is not the direction the government will go. According to information from Parisian on November 23, 2022, the executive intends to rule out the use of this biometric technique to monitor the comings and goings of the public, in favor of other solutions.

According to our colleagues, who have obtained confirmation from the Ministry of Sports, the bill which must frame the organization of the Olympic Games in the capital will exclude “ fully and explicitly the use of facial recognition “. There is also no question of using any biometric data, which excludes alternatives, such as taking fingerprints.

Anonymized processing of camera images

Instead, it is planned to mobilize video surveillance cameras to monitor what is happening in the public space, adding an automatic analysis capacity. It is about algorithms that would not recognize faces, but could detect crowd movements in transport, or other atypical behavior.

These perspectives were drawn by Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, Minister of Sports and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, last October. Noting that ” the legislative provisions concerning safety do not provide for these devices [de reconnaissance faciale, NDLR] “, it is towards “intelligent” video surveillance that the government is moving.

It was also on this occasion that the minister recalled that even this path will have to be examined by the Council of State and the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (Cnil) ” before being implemented “. In particular, the Cnil will have to give its opinion on the effectiveness of the anonymization of this intelligent video surveillance which is provided for with the bill.

surveillance camera // Source: vjkombajn via Pixabay
CCTV cameras. // Source : vjkombajn via Pixabay

This reminder from Amélie Oudéa-Castéra on the state of the law in terms of facial recognition does not come at a trivial moment. The year 2022 was marked by exceptional incidents around the Stade de France last June, which raised the question of France’s ability to organize a major sports competition, to ensure its smooth running and to secure the way public.

After these events, and given the terrorist risk that remains present in France, facial recognition seemed to be a good lead for its supporters – especially since other countries with standards close to those of France have already started, the image of Japan which used it during its 2021 Olympic Games – but not to follow the crowd.

A specific law would be required

The introduction of facial recognition in the public space, on a large scale and associated with algorithmic processing, would require the adoption of a specific piece of legislation. The only scenario is the processing of criminal records, noted Senator Marc-Philippe Daubresserapporteur for the orientation and programming bill of the Ministry of the Interior.

This treatment is currently very framed “, Considered the parliamentarian, while rejecting an amendment requesting the explicit exclusion of this biometric technique. ” Facial recognition is currently prohibited in France. The Minister spoke on the subject without any ambiguity “, he argued. No need, therefore, to exclude something that is already excluded.

Within the framework of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), biometric elements fall into a special category of personal data: that of sensitive data, which is more protected and supervised. There are other data, such as criminal record, sexual orientation or political opinions.

End of debate, then? That remains to be seen: shortly before the events around the Stade de France, senators returned a report on biometric recognition in the public spacewith proposals for “ remove the risk of a surveillance company “. However, despite its title seeming to oppose it, the report still invites us to experiment with it.

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