'No legal basis' for facial recognition cameras at Brussels Airport

'No legal basis' for facial recognition cameras at Brussels Airport
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The plan to install facial recognition cameras at airports lacks legal basis, a legal expert said on Wednesday after a federal police commissioner announced plans to install the devices at Brussels Zaventem airport.

"Currently, there is no legal basis for the deployment by police of facial recognition cameras at Zaventem airport," jurist Matthias Dobbelaere-Welvaert told Belgian media.

On Tuesday, Marc De Mesmaeker, a commissioner-general with the federal police, said police would look to install the cameras at the airport "as quickly as possible," citing their efficacy at other major international airports.

But Belgian law currently does not allow for authorities to employ face recognition technology for law enforcement purposes, Dobbelaere-Welvaert said, adding that current legislation would need to be amended or a new law created.

The deployment of facial recognition would need to be further paired with an up-to-date image and data bank, and the only current existing one is the National Register which "is not meant for identifying people with cameras," the jurist said.

The technology can still be used in airports for commercial purposes, such as for checking-in passengers.

Alternatively, current legislation allows for the use of intelligent cameras, such as ones already installed in some places like the Flemish town of Kortrijk, which can detect certain elements or characteristics—like the colour of a bag or of a person's attire— but not a person's identity.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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