IGF 2020 WS #345 Dodging Big Brother's Eyes: Public Safety & Data Protection


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 1: Smitha Krishna Prasad, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Fabro Steibel, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Malavika Jayaram, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Break-out Group Discussions - Flexible Seating - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can regulatory approaches stimulate innovation and maximize community benefit, while mitigating associated risks around the use of Facial Recognition Systems?

Facial recognition became especially popular in 2019, when the technology saw wide implementation in the global south. As interest in biometric technologies and their promises to optimize public security grows, little is said about the sectors in which these technologies are already more widespread. Based on five main sectors for the implementation of facial recognition by the public sector - (i) education, (ii) transport, (iii) border control, (iv) public security and (v) welfare benefits / services - the aim is to analyze the impacts of technology for the privacy, surveillance (in more recent cases, also for health purposes) and individual security.


GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals


Facial recognition technology has become increasingly popular and is being tried by many countries around the globe. It has been used by Governments for mass surveillance and law enforcement - this market is led by increased activity to combat crime and terrorism - or by enterprises for innovation purposes. But, the ethical and societal challenge posed by data protection is radically affected by the use of facial recognition technologies. What would a regulation and responsible use of this type of technology look like? Where are the limits for its use and which are the most vulnerable groups exposed? Principles (such as proportionality, purpose, consent, transparency and accountability) are needed to guide their implementation and to safeguard the exercise of people's rights and freedoms. The development of minimum parameters depends on the debate between different social actors in the Global North and South, considering the social benefit gained from the development of the technology itself, revisiting the failures and implementing a solid data protection culture.

Expected Outcomes

Map out a problem or issue area / Share skills and lessons learned / Draft best practices or principles

Time will be allowed for public intervention, enabling a concrete exchange of experience and reflection between them. The workshop will start with a 5-minute explanation of the topic's relevance and relevance, conducted by the moderator, and soon afterwards, each guest will have 10 minutes to present their opinions, arguments and share their professional trajectories. After that first moment, 20 minutes will be used for public intervention present, with questions directed to those present, and conclusions from each guest.

Relevance to Internet Governance: It is a proposal aimed at raising a multisectoral discussion about the implementation of facial recognition technology and its technical, regulatory and political implications, with an emphasis, mainly, on the reflexes to the public sector, public security, combating fraud, fostering public policies in the country and assurance of fundamental rights. The expansion of technologies in general and facial recognition specifically has discussions involving concepts, technical, ethical and legal points of view. These are topics widely discussed in the sphere of Internet Governance. The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee lists freedom and privacy as the main principles of internet governance. The implications are varied: from the ethical implementation of systems, compliance with data protection laws, adequacy of technology in transport systems and for public safety, fostering interdisciplinary and multisectoral discussion.

Relevance to Theme: The controversial use of the technology has been reflected in some decisions around the globe. Privacy and civil rights concerns have escalated as face recognition gains traction as a law enforcement tool. In the US, the technology was banned in San Francisco, Somerville City and Oakland. In 2019, Sweden's Data Protection Authority decided to ban the technology in schools. As for the Global South, in India the Supreme Court has enshrined the right to privacy in the country's Constitution, but the government plans to build a national level facial recognition database for law enforcement. In Brazil, which recently approved a GDPR, the technology is already implemented for public security purposes, leading to the elaboration of draft bills that disregard data protection. The main goal of this session is to answer: Is the ban just a “pause button” to better assess risks and balance them against individual privacy, or is this a step backward for public safety?

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.