Privacy Advocates Alarmed By Singapore’s World-First Face-Scanning Plans

“Singapore will become the world’s first country to use facial verification in its national ID scheme, but privacy advocates are alarmed by what they say is an intrusive system vulnerable to abuse,” reports AFP: Face scanning technology remains controversial despite its growing use and critics have raised ethical concerns about it in some countries — for instance, law enforcement agencies scanning crowds at large events to look for troublemakers. Singapore authorities are frequently accused of targeting government critics and taking a hard line on dissent, and activists are concerned about how the face scanning tech will be used. “There are no clear and explicit restraints on government power when it comes to things like surveillance and data gathering,” said Kirsten Han, a freelance journalist from the city. “Will we one day discover that this data is in the hands of the police or in the hands of some other agency that we didn’t specifically give consent for?”

Those behind the Singapore scheme stress facial verification is different to recognition as it requires user consent, but privacy advocates remain sceptical. “The technology is still far from benign,” Privacy International research officer Tom Fisher told AFP. He said systems like the one planned for Singapore left “opportunities for exploitation”, such as use of data to track and profile people.