My Department recognises the value of the technology referred to by the Deputy. I am also aware of the misgivings of some groups in respect of the potential for misuse of the technology.
As the Deputy may be aware, the EU Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive permits data to be retained once it is lawful and fair and for a specific law enforcement purpose. It is important that our national law keeps pace with technological developments and this is being considered in the context of legislation currently being developed as I am determined to ensure that Ireland is fully equipped to combat the rapid developments in all forms of crime and terrorism.
A facial recognition system is a technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image either from a passport or passport card. My Department’s Immigration Service operate automated border control “eGates” at Dublin Airport which utilise facial recognition technology in order to “match” arriving passengers with the photograph contained on the chip in their passport.
The installation of the vb i-match™ ABC eGate biometric solution has created a visible clearance option for passengers holding eligible e-Passports or the Irish Passport Identification Cards. In fact, vb i-match™ ABC reads and authenticates both Passports and Irish Passport cards in addition to guaranteeing that only legitimate passengers cross the border. Systems such as these are now used in border control areas all over the world.
I am aware that the European Commission has been looking at the use of facial recognition more closely in recent times and has made recommendations in this regard in respect of the use of the technology in developing Schengen area border controls and in systems to support police and law enforcement to capture criminals and terrorists. These systems are also used to assist in identifying the location of missing children and vulnerable adults, in line with the EU’s data protection rules.
I am also aware that the EU are considering new regulations in this area that will give EU citizens explicit rights over the use of their facial recognition data. I understand that the aim is to limit the indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology by companies and public authorities.
While Ireland does not generally participate in the Schengen systems, my officials are monitoring these developments closely for consideration of any policy or legislative amendments that may be useful and/or necessary in the future.