Administrative justice opposed the implementation of facial recognition in two high schools, presented as a pioneering experiment by the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, but criticized by defenders of freedoms, according to a decision consulted on Thursday by AFP.
“To my knowledge, this is the first judgment in France concerning the use of facial recognition technologies in public space,” said Alexis Fitzjean O Cobhthaigh, who represented several associations including Quadrature du Net, specializing in the defense of individual freedoms in the face of new technologies.
At the end of 2018, the region, chaired by Renaud Muselier (LR), had launched this experiment, with the American computer group Cisco, to equip the Ampere high school in Marseille and Les Eucalyptus in Nice with “virtual access control devices”. These cameras are supposed to recognize high school students to allow them access and to be able to follow the trajectory of people.
A project that infringes on individual freedoms, according to the associations for the defense of rights, which had brought the matter to justice. In October 2019, the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) had already indicated that it opposed this experiment, considering it “disproportionate”.
In their decision rendered Wednesday, the judges of the Marseille administrative court “consider that such biometric processing is disproportionate to the purposes pursued (…) This is good news for the protection of our fundamental freedoms”, commented on Me Fitzjean O Cobhthaigh.
The court considered in particular that the region had not shown the “public interest” of its device, which only replaces the classic badge check. On the other hand, the pupils find themselves “in a relationship of authority” vis-à-vis the lycee and therefore cannot give “free and informed” consent to the collection of their personal data, according to the judgment.
The Human Rights League, the CGT and the parents of FCPE students also attacked this experiment. The judgment “shows that we can not do anything and that citizen mobilization manages to roll back certain security delusions”, rejoiced Celine Vaillant, general secretary of the FCPE in the Alpes-Maritimes.
“The best guarantee of security is to develop support for students throughout the year to allow young people to feel part of the school, and not to check-in at the entrance and to return as in a penitentiary. “
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