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Swiss petition takes aim at face recognition

Biometric device at a security gate
The Swiss NGOs are concerned that the state and the private sector could use biometric face recognition devices and video cameras for a systematic 24/7 surveillance of the public space. Keystone/Jockel Finck

Civil society groups have called for a ban on automatic face recognition devices and video surveillance technology in Switzerland.

Three organisations, including the Swiss chapter of Amnesty InternationalExternal link, said a combination of both tools was highly problematic.

“It ignores a massive infringement of basic rights of the whole population,” a joint statement said on Thursday.

The groups said there is a real risk that the use of the surveillance technology will spread fast across Europe and that the Swiss authorities will soon approve the legal basis in the country.

Some police forces already apply the controversial face recognition tools, the NGOs claim.

“This is a worrying step towards a comprehensive and permanent system of mass surveillance. The target are not only criminals but the entire population,” said Erik Schönenberger of the Digital SocietyExternal link.

The installation of video cameras in public places continues to be a hotly debated issue. Supporters of the technology argue electronic surveillance can help ensure security.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR