Greek Police to Introduce Live Facial Recognition

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Police in Greece are to be issued new devices that will allow them to carry out real-time facial recognition and fingerprint identification while out on the beat. 

The plan to disseminate the new technology is part of the 4.5 million euro "Smart Policing" project announced in 2017 that aims to identify and verify the identity of citizens when stopped by the police. Most of the project costs (75%) are being covered by the Internal Security Fund (ISF) of the European Commission.

Currently, citizens who are not able to provide identification documents when stopped by the police in Greece have to be transferred to the nearest police station for their identity to be verified. By allowing identification in real time, the new devices will make the identification of citizens more time efficient. 

“Our goal is to verify individuals, vehicles and objects in real time. By doing that we improve police officers’ security, we reduce civilians’ discomfort, and we save human and material resources,” a Greek police official told non-profit research and advocacy organization AlgorithmWatch.

According to AlgorithmWatch, Greek police will initially be issued at least 1,000 devices, with an option to deploy a further 9,000 by this summer if the scheme proves to be effective. 

The devices, which are similar in appearance to smart phones, will be connected to 20 different databases belonging to international and national authorities, including the Greek Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Europol, the FBI, and Interpol.

Commenting to Infosecurity Magazine on the planned device rollout, Hank Schless, senior manager of security solutions at Lookout, said:  "It’s been noted that these devices will be connected to a handful of government databases. If compromised, one of these devices could serve as a backdoor into the greater database."

"We see this with threat actors behind mobile phishing campaigns who socially engineer mobile users. Attackers convince victims to share login details or install malware to gain access to the entire infrastructure."

In March last year, Greek non-profit digital rights advocacy organization, Homo Digitalis, filed a request to the Greek Data Protection Authority (DPA) expressing concern over the legality of the “Smart Policing” project.

Homo Digitalis argued in the request that “there is a strong possibility that the Greek police is violating EU laws regarding the processing of personal data” laid out in the Greek Constitution, national laws linked to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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