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Privacy not violated by facial recognition technology, says NPA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The National Police Agency (NPA) yesterday afternoon denied an opposition lawmaker's accusation of violating the law and human rights with its human face recognition system.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Li Chun-yi (李俊俋) yesterday morning held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan, arguing that the NPA's recently launched human face recognition system of its M-Police Operation System has violated the laws when accessing citizen ID pictures from the nation's household registration system.

The M-Police Operation System is a system that aims to enhance the NPA's capabilities in using mobile devices and advanced technologies. The recently launched human face recognition system is part of the M-Police system.

Li criticized that the NPA's attempt to detect crimes by accessing the household system to compare citizens' photos with criminals' photos not only violates personal privacy but also treats ordinary people like criminals.

The lawmaker further stated that with the NPA's M-Police Operation System, police could take as many photos as possible at any protest and then to spend only 10 seconds to ID a protester.

Lawyer Huang Ti-ying (黃帝穎), who also attended the press conference, said as far as he knows, there is no specific regulation that grants police the right to utilize such a system. Huang said that in the past the Constitutional Court has ruled that forcing people to give their fingerprints violates the R.O.C Constitution; therefore, the government should not take photos of people.

Li said if the NPA deems that it is necessary to access the household registration system for citizens' ID photographs, then the NPA should propose to amend current laws and obtain the Legislature's approval.

In response, the NPA later released a press statement, saying that based on the need to maintain social order and detect crimes, it has set "administrative procedures" for the police to follow and has applied to the Ministry of the Interior to access the database of citizens' ID photographs in accordance with the law.

The NPA said that a police officer needs to have the person of interest's consent and clearance before accessing the database of the household registration system.

This would mean the M-Police Operation System's human face recognition system does not violate the Personal Information Protection Act, the NPA said, noting that it also has management to prevent any police officers from abusing the system.

The NPA said should any police officers break the regulations and harm people's interests and rights, it will probe the case and investigate the police officers in accordance with the Criminal Code.

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