International organisations call for ban on biometric surveillance

175 civil society organisations, activists, technologists, and other experts from across the world have co-signed an open letter calling on decision makers to ban biometric surveillance.

The letter urges governments to stop the use of facial recognition and remote biometric recognition, claiming that these technologies enable “mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance.”

The group said that the ban specifically focusses on, but is not limited to, the use of biometric tech to identify a person from a larger set of individuals. The ban would also cover the use of the biometric technology in public spaces and areas in which people cannot avoid.

The letter, composed by Access Now, Amnesty International, European Digital Rights (EDRi), Human Rights Watch, Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), and Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor (IDEC), claims that these technologies have the ability to “identify, follow, single out, and track people everywhere they go.”

The organisations say that these tools undermine human rights and civil liberties, including the rights to privacy and data protection, the right to freedom of expression, the right to free assembly and association – leading to the criminalisation of protest – and the rights to equality and non-discrimination.

Co-signatories call for a total ban because they say that even though a moratorium could put a temporary stop to the development and use of these technologies, buying time to gather evidence and organise democratic discussion, it is “already clear that these investigations and discussions will only further demonstrate that the use of these technologies in publicly accessible spaces is incompatible with our human rights."

The document claims that in China, the US, Russia, England, Uganda, Kenya, Slovenia, Myanmar, UAE, Israel, and India, surveillance of protesters and civilians has harmed people’s right to privacy and right to free assembly and association.

It also suggests that the "wrongful arrests of innocent individuals" in the United States, Argentina, and Brazil have undermined people’s right to privacy and their rights to due process and freedom of movement.

The letter mentions the surveillance of ethnic and religious minorities and other marginalised communities in China, Thailand, and Italy, stating that the use of technology in these countries has violated people’s rights to privacy, equality, and non-discrimination.

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