Justice Minister must clarify approach to Facial Recognition Technology

12 April 2023
  • Public Consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny needed on FRT legislative proposals.

Labour Justice spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Justice Minister to now clarify what his approach to legislating for facial recognition technology will be, and admit that he made a mistake by trying to introduce last minute amendments to the Garda Body Camera bill.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“When the Dáil was debating in February the draft law to provide legal underpinning for Garda body cameras I expressed Labour’s serious concerns about the intention of the Minister for Justice to bring in committee stage amendments that would provide for the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.

“The issue of FRT was not considered during pre-legislative scrutiny of the current bill, and there are serious issues about privacy, trust and data protection that need to be properly considered. The ICCL has warned about how such mass surveillance can be used to draw a detailed map of a person’s identity and activities, and that there are also serious concerns about accuracy and bias.

Despite some concerns on body cams, we support the current legislation, but on FRT, we are yet to be convinced that this is the right time to bring in this incredibly powerful tool on top of what the Minister is already proposing when there has been no public consultation or scrutiny of his unpublished proposals.

“The intervention this week by the Green Party opposing late stage amendments that have not been properly scrutinised or considered by the Justice Committee is welcome, and the Minister for Justice now needs to reflect on his position. Minister Harris should admit he made a mistake, and agree to a new open and transparent process that would allow the views of all stakeholders to be heard.

“I am calling now on the Minister for Justice to confirm that he won’t seek to introduce last minute amendments on facial recognition technology. What he now needs to do is commit to publishing an outline of what approach his Department and An Garda Síochána would like to take on FRT, hold a public consultation, and then publish a general scheme of a bill, which could then go to the Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.

“Technology is evolving all the time, and there may be legitimate uses for FRT in the investigation of crime, but such powerful technology should be properly considered and scrutinised when it poses, as the ICCL has said, a serious risk to people’s fundamental rights.”

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