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Striking a Balance: The EU's Path to Regulating Facial Recognition in Law Enforcement

In an increasingly digital world, technological advancements have revolutionized many aspects of our lives, including the way we approach law enforcement. One innovation that has garnered considerable attention is facial recognition technology. By analysing and comparing facial features, this technology holds the potential to identify individuals swiftly and efficiently, aiding law enforcement agencies in their pursuit of justice. However, the potential risks and challenges associated with face recognition have not gone unnoticed.

Recognizing the need to strike a delicate balance between leveraging the benefits of facial recognition technology and safeguarding fundamental rights, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) issued new guidelines on 17 May 2023 in relation to the use of this technology in law enforcement. These guidelines serve as a comprehensive framework aimed at ensuring accountability, transparency, and respect for privacy in the utilization of face recognition systems by EU Member States.

The core of the guidelines is the idea that national legislation should have strong safeguards to ensure that this technology can be properly applied. In this context, the national legislator should establish rules that allow the use of facial recognition technology for a specific purpose and not generally. The guidelines also outline that these technologies shall comply with the Law Enforcement Directive and shall take into account the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the GDPR.