However, the Belgian police used the controversial “Clearview AI” facial recognition software. Minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) confirms this after twice denying the facts. The PVDA is now demanding that the Commissioner-General of the Federal Police, Marc de Mesmaker, be questioned in Parliament.
Buzzfeed gained access to Clearview AI’s user list at the beginning of this year after the data breach. Clearview AI offers a controversial system that can recognize people from an image. The image is compared to a database of billions of images the company has collected from social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The way these images were obtained is questionable to say the least. The leak showed that the software is also used in Belgium by government agencies or police services. This claim was vigorously dismissed to our editors in August by a police spokesperson, but now Interior Minister Anneliese Verlinden herself has admitted that the Belgian police actually used this software.
The minister emphasized that this was just a test and that the Belgian police were not using or would use the software on a structural basis. However, the PVDA would like a hearing with Commissioner-General Marc de Mesmaker. “The minister clearly confirmed two things,” said MP Nabil Boukeel (PVDA). “That the Federal Police not only used pirated software, but also lied to us in public twice.”
Minister Annelies Verlinden, who received several questions about the matter on Wednesday, explained that an internal investigation by the Federal Police showed that two investigators obtained a pilot license for this software in October 2019. She stated that facial recognition is certainly an interesting way to use it in the future, But it can only be used with a valid legal basis.
The software is currently illegal in Belgium. A German court already ruled in January that Clearview was not complying with European data protection legislation. It remains unclear at the moment whether Commissioner-General De Mesmaeker will have to answer Parliament on testing the use of the software.
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