Consumer groups question Sao Paulo Metro’s facial recognition system

Sao Paul’s urban rail company has failed to provide key information as it implements a $58.6m ($11.2m, €10.0m) surveillance system for the Brazilian city’s underground railway system, the country’s Institute of Consumer Protection (Idec) claims.

Companhia do Metropolitano de Sao Paulo (Metro) has not produced an impact report for the facial recognition technology, nor does it have studies which prove the safety of the databases to be used. Additionally, it has not developed any data protection policy for children and adolescents, who have special constitutional protection, Idec says.

The institute, which is filing a lawsuit with other civil society organisations for production of evidence, says a facial recognition system potentially monitoring around 3.7m passengers daily should be preceded by wide and transparent disclosure of information of interest to the metro’s users, and in line with principles in the proposed General Law for the Protection of Data.

Idec also questions the technology’s reliability, saying a University of Essex study in the UK found the London Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition system had an 81% failure rate. Microsoft, IBM and Amazon have said in recent weeks they will suspend sale of facial recognition technology to police because of potential violation of human rights, Idec added.

Metro said the new cameras have smart resources to support operational activities rather than collection of data.

“The [framework of the upcoming] general data protection regulations was the model used for this project, which will not employ a database with personal information nor record personal information, the priority being the increased security of Metro’s passengers,” information technology news source ZDNet quoted the company as saying.

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