IGF 2020 WS #251 Facial biometrics and urban mobility: targets and purposes

Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Maria Luisa Stasi, ARTICLE 19
Organizer 2: Gabrielle Guillemin, ARTICLE 19

Speaker 1: Barbara Pareglio, Private Sector, Eastern European Group
Speaker 2: Rafaela de Alcântara, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Rafael Evangelista, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Maria Luisa Stasi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Gabrielle Guillemin, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Gabrielle Guillemin, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

What is the impact of the use of face recognition technologies in public transport services on the rights of minority groups? How to guarantee these rights to further advance minority groups’ inclusion and avoid further harm? Is public security a legitimate, proportionate and necessary purpose for the use of such technologies in collective transport services? How different stakeholders - governments, the private sector, and civil society - can be involved in discussions prior to the implementation of such projects?

The workshop aims to have a multistakeholder discussion about human rights challenges regarding the use of facial recognition in public transport services, and to reach consensus on a number of possible solutions. In particular, the workshop aims to look at the impact of this technology on minorities, and on their rights to privacy, freedom of expression and association, freedom of movement, and non-discrimination. Thus, the workshop should help defining guidelines for future advocacy regarding the matter.


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities


Application of facial recognition systems in public transportation is spreading worldwide. We observe this kind of projects being planned or developed in different countries such as Brazil, China, Malaysia, and Zimbabwe. A global trend is identified: under the justification that it will improve customer service and increase user’s security, States and companies work jointly in order to generate, collect, store, transfer and process facial biometric data from millions of citizens. Bearing in mind this scenario, it is necessary to analyse and discuss with different stakeholders how to address the emerging challenges, for human rights, of the implementation of these technologies in public transport. Thus, this workshop aims to discuss the phenomenon, taking into account that it may directly affect among others, people’s right to privacy, freedom of expression and association, and their freedom of movement. The violation of those rights might be a consequence of a series of risks related to how the technology is deployed, such as data leakage, mass surveillance, and use of data with biased purposes. Therefore, it becomes necessary to discuss how - and if - facial recognition systems in public transportation can be viable under a human rights-based approach. Among the various rights that can be impacted by the use of this technology, the workshop aims to provide a racial and ethnic approach to the analysis, since minority groups are potentially the ones whose rights and bodies are mostly targeted by data collection and further criminalization by public forces. Therefore, the workshop will focus on, for instance, the possibility of data usage by law enforcement agencies to persecute minorities and those who could represent dissent voices -- including in a collective way, repressing legitimate public protests. In this context, it is also important to discuss how the usage of such technologies can represent a specific threat for black people, immigrants, and other ethnic minorities -- not only concerning the right to experience the city and to freedom of movement, but also to the right to remain anonymous and to freely express themselves in public places. The complexity of this scenario demands an accurate analysis, which can be best provided by a multistakeholder panel, in order to built priorities on the addressing of different issues related to the framework. For this reason, a academic researcher will, at first, provide to the panel an overview on how the phenomenon relates to social structures, focusing on surveillance capitalism and militarization of cities. Then, three other panelists will be heard. A representative from Public Sector will help to explore the legitimacy and legality of the use of these technologies by the state and to discuss public power liability. In addition, she will focus on measures that could be taken to prevent discriminatory usage of face recognition in public transportation as well as to guarantee privacy and data protection for users. Another panelist, representing Private Sector, will be able to identify trends on how facial recognition is being used in public transport, and to describe measures companies can take to prevent the negative impacts of the technology or its misuse, in order to guarantee that society can benefit from it. Finally, a Civil Society member from Global South will provide a view on how civil society and social movements are facing this kind of projects and also how human rights standards may be a guideline for public power and enterprises. Time, introductions and other responsibilities related to the conduction of the workshop will be guided by the moderator. Each panelist will have 10 minutes to expose. The public (in-person and online) will be highly encouraged to participate and share their perspective specifically on what principles and aspects should address a human rights-based approach to the theme. The moderator will finally be responsible for synthesizing the recommendations made by public and panelists, since this summary will be a outcome of the session. Additional Reference Document Links: https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Governance-with-te…

Expected Outcomes

The moderator will synthese challenges, recommendations and concerns pointed out by public (both in-person and online attendees) and panelists, since this summary will be a outcome of the session. That synthesis aims to be a guideline to civil society with regard to advocacy opportunities, addressing different stakeholders, related to a human rights based approach to the phenomenon, especially for what concerns the relationship between Public and Private sectors, civil society mobilization (including social movements) and regulatory initiatives.

While introducing panelists, the moderator will point out what aspects should be addressed and, in addition, prior to the workshop, items that will be explored by each stakeholder representative will be shared with all of them. After guest speakers expose, remote and in-person public will be encouraged for highlighting guidelines that they believe should followed by different actors when dealing with facial recognition and urban mobility, sharing experiences they have in their countries and regions, ask questions, and react to panelists speeches.

Relevance to Internet Governance: As a general rule, we can observe that application of ICTs in collective transportation is not preceded by a multistakeholder discussion, specifically regarding civil society participation. This kind of discussion is highly important for Internet governance since it can help governments, private sector, and civil society to address the challenges related to the growing implementation of facial biometric systems in public transportation services in a diversity of countries. In fact, we can already identify a relevant debate concerning the use of biometric data with public policies purposes, but we can find a lack of common approaches on how specifically facial recognition may potentially impact urban mobility. It is highly relevant to deepen this discussion and to open it to all stakeholders, since these projects can be a threat to minority rights, and in particular their freedom of expression and association, their freedom of movement, and their privacy. Thereby, it is a pivotal approach in terms of governance, since it needs a common understanding and shared approaches and strategies, including regulatory initiatives, to define how ICTs impact life on cities, and also to avoid biometric data use with discriminatory purposes.

Relevance to Theme: There is a shared concern among relevant stakeholders about the generation, collection, storage, transfer and processing of facial biometric data. The discussion proposed by the workshop will focus on the possibility of building a human rights-based approach regarding systems which apply facial recognitions in public transportation. Thus, bearing in mind not only the impact of this kind of projects on cities, but also how they are spreading worldwide, the workshop is pivotal to discuss a series of aspects related to it, such as mass surveillance, privacy, freedom of expression and association, and freedom of movement.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Zoom