Name, age and emotion. Cameras can now read and evaluate all of this from faces. What is controversial here is already a reality in China.
The problem is that not only criminals are targeted, but the entire population is targeted.
The political left in St. Gallen is convinced that we should not go that far. That’s why she campaigned yesterday in the city parliament for a ban on automatic facial recognition in public places. The problem is that not only dangerous criminals are targeted, but the entire population. These systems have also proven to be discriminatory. Dark-skinned people and women are difficult to identify easily. That is why there are more false hits among them,” said Marilyn Schurch, MP for SP City.
The general public wants to simplify the work of the police
The general public has fewer reservations about this technology. For them, safety is the focus: “We don’t want transparent citizens. We don’t want Chinese conditions. But we want to give the police as much freedom as possible. How any digital facial recognition can be used should be regulated,” says FDP’s Lillian Kobler. Clear.
We want to give the police as much freedom as possible.
In the end, the city parliament of St. Gallen narrowly approved a ban on automatic facial recognition in public places. It follows the city of Zurich which is currently implementing the ban. In Lausanne too, there are signs that a corresponding ban is coming.
Technology is allowed in crime
The fact that cities anticipate this is symbolic policy, says criminal attorney Monica Semmler. She specializes in legal issues related to facial recognition. “It is about explicitly banning something. Nothing will change in the legal situation because automatic facial recognition is not already allowed. I understand the bans in Zurich and St. Gallen as temporary bans, because these two cities say they should not even be considered.”
It’s about explicitly preventing something. Nothing will change in the legal mode because automatic face recognition is not already allowed.
However, some police teams in Switzerland are already using this technology to investigate crimes, including the cantonal police of St Gallen. According to Simler, bans in some cities cannot change that.
How does this contradiction occur? “Decisions in the parliaments of the cities of St. Gallen and Zurich relate to the preventive control of public places. Face recognition is applied before anything happens. Jurisdiction here rests with the cities and cantons. Everything related to criminal procedure is the prerogative of the federal government. “The technology is applied after something has happened,” says Semler. If automatic facial recognition should not be used to investigate crimes, the Federal Parliament would have to issue a similar ban.
The coalition seeks a complete ban
The Stop Facial Recognition coalition is campaigning for a ban at all levels, i.e. municipal, cantonal and national. You don’t want a patchwork quilt about this issue. In the spring, a coalition made up of AI Switzerland, AlgorithmWatch Switzerland and the digital community submitted a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to the cities of Zurich and Lausanne.
As these cities and St. Gallen progress, federal policy is under pressure to make clear rules for everyone in the future, such as cities and cantons as well as authorities and police.
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