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Italy: Garante considers Ministry's facial recognition system unlawful

The Italian data protection authority ('Garante') published, on 16 April 2021, an opinion, adopted on 25 March 2021, on the Ministry of Interior's intended use of a facial recognition system, called Sari Real Time. In particular, the Garante affirmed that there would be no legal basis justifying this system, as it would create a form of indiscriminate mass surveillance in its current design. In addition, the Garante outlined that the system, which would generate an alert to law enforcement forces when its facial recognition algorithm identifies a match between a predefined watchlist of up to 10,000 faces, would constitute large-scale automated processing of individuals present at social and political events who are of no interest to law enforcement. Furthermore, the Garante highlighted that whilst the Ministry's Data Protection Impact Assessment ('DPIA') explains that the images would be immediately deleted, the identification of an individual could nonetheless only be achieved through the processing of the biometric data of all those present in the monitored area, which could lead to the possibility of universal surveillance.

In consideration of the above, the Garante determined that there was no legal basis for the system as described in the documentation provided by the Ministry. The Garante further explained that an adequate legal basis for the system would need to take into account all the rights and freedoms and define the situations in which the use of such systems is possible, without leaving a wide discretion to those who use it, paying due consideration to factors such as the identification criteria of the subjects that can be included in the watchlist, and whether the system adequately ensures non-discrimination.

You can read the press release here and the opinion here, both only available in Italian.