Belgian police admit using controversial facial recognition software

Use of Clearview AI ‘was not structural,’ it is illegal under Belgian law, says Belgian interior minister

Agnes Szucs  | 11.10.2021 - Update : 11.10.2021
Belgian police admit using controversial facial recognition software FILE PHOTO


The Belgian police admitted using facial recognition software, according to media reports.

Citing an internal investigation of the federal police, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told a parliamentary committee last week that the police had used the controversial software Clearview AI, online news outlet Brussels Times reported on Monday.

Verlinden explained that two Belgian police researchers specialized in victim identification and other EU police officers were offered a trial version of the program in 2019 during a conference organized by Europol, the EU’s police cooperation agency.

According to the minister, the Belgian authorities used the software for a limited time and occasions in order to test it or to respond to the requests of Child Focus, an NGO specialized in missing children.

Verlinden also stressed that the use of Clearview AI “was not structural” and it is illegal under Belgian law.

However, the minister’s speech and the police investigation clearly contradict previous comments of the federal police.

Last year, Belgian media asked authorities several times if they had used the program after the American news outlet BuzzFeed published the company’s customer list.

According to the leak, the Belgian police used Clearview AI between 101 and 500 times, but the federal authority explicitly denied it.

The program collects pictures and videos from social media without user authorization and matches them with other footage, such as street camera views, in order to identify people.

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