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New law must come before facial recognition CCTV, law association insists

Processing of biometric data through facial recognition tools is subject to a stricter legal regime

Specific laws are required before mass-scale facial recognition CCTV is introduced in Malta, the Malta Information Technology Law Association insisted today.

It was reacting to a report in MaltaToday that Paceville could be a test case for facial recognition CCTV before it is deployed nationwide. It was reported that a new government company called Safe City Malta is planning to present a proof of concept for Paceville through the deployment of a system utilising high-definition CCTV cameras with facial recognition software that can identify individuals.

"Whilst the use of state-of the art technology by law enforcement officials is key for the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal activities, the processing of personal data through the use of such systems has to conform with the laws and must constitute a necessary and proportionate measure in a democratic society with due regard for the legitimate interests of natural persons," the association said.

It pointed out that facial biometric data is a special category of data as defined under the new EU General Data Protection Regulation which will come into force in May 2018. As such, the processing of biometric data through facial recognition tools is subject to a stricter legal regime.

Under current legislation, biometric data is already recognised as sensitive personal data.

"Any introduction of facial recognition technologies, irrespective whether launched as a pilot project or not, will require the introduction of an ad hoc legislative framework which will carefully need to balance the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens with the obligations and duties of competent authorities in their fight against crime and the preservation of public order." 

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