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Ireland’s Justice Minister Gets Green Light for Police Facial Recognition Bill

Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, has received government approval to publish legislation – the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) (Amendment) Bill 2023 – that would let the country’s An Garda Síochána national police force use facial recognition technology (FRT) in certain circumstances.

The primary goal of introducing FRT is to save significant time for the Gardaí by enabling biometric identification to retrospectively search CCTV footage, particularly in the context of serious crimes and public safety threats.

Following recent riots in Dublin City Centre, the scope of FRT has been expanded to include offenses related to riot and violent disorder. The draft bill stipulates that FRT can be used only in specific scenarios: when a serious offense is suspected, the use of biometric identification is necessary and proportionate to the case, and each use is authorized in writing by a Chief Superintendent.

The bill follows the recent enactment of the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Act 2023, which allows the rollout of body cameras by the Gardaí and establishes a framework for using recording devices and processing audio-visual data.

The draft FRT Bill modifies the 2023 Act to allow biometric data processing, which is currently restricted under the Data Protection Act 2018 without explicit legal authorization. The bill aims to provide this authorization, focusing on biometric identification using facial images for a predetermined list of serious offenses.

Minister McEntee emphasizes the importance of FRT in speeding up criminal investigations and freeing Garda resources for more visible policing roles. The draft bill includes several safeguards and oversight mechanisms, such as a statutory code of practice, data protection, human rights impact assessments, and judicial oversight, to ensure the responsible and proportional use of this technology.

The bill’s development will align with the evolving AI Act at the European level, ensuring compliance with EU law. The proposed Heads of the Bill provide detailed guidelines and restrictions on how biometric data can be processed and utilized by An Garda Síochána, focusing on protecting individual rights and ensuring judicial and legislative oversight of the technology’s use.

Going forward, the General Scheme will now be reviewed for pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, and undergo drafting by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

Source : Findbiometrics