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France’s national face ID database is coming sooner than expected

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China is that country that’s usually not only at the forefront of investing in, and developing facial recognition and a host of other advanced, if highly controversial tech – but also, all importantly when it comes to human and digital rights, all too often controversially at the forefront of being willing to widely deploy it.

Over in Europe, however, France is not known – not by a long shot – as a leader in tech innovation of any discernible kind. Nevertheless, the country’s politicians seem only too keen to exploit some of the most advanced, if at the same time potentially the darkest recent tech developments, such as facial recognition.

France’s ID program known as “Alicem” is promoted by the country’s President Emmanuel Macron to likely come into effect even earlier than initially planned – i.e., as soon as this November, we’re hearing.

That’s regardless of any pushback from the country’s privacy and digital rights-minded groups – and even the country’s data watchdog, the report said.

Not only does the software in question reportedly violate EU’s “rule of consent” – there are also fears that it proves to be unreliable from a purely technical point of view – given that earlier this year a supposedly “secure” French government app was “owned” by a hacker in a rather short shrift.

The kind-of-good news is – at least according to the French Interior Ministry, and at least at this point – that unlike in China and Singapore, the facial recognition tech will not be used invasively to include their citizens’ biometric data with existing ID databases.

The app that would deploy this at the moment seemingly controversial policy and tech attached to it is “Android only.”

Meanwhile, US agency Bloomberg is quoted as saying that the app will be “the only way for residents to create a legal digital ID and facial recognition will be its sole enabler.”

How all of this will sit with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is yet to be seen. Meanwhile, France’s opposition figures have expressed their concerns that the authorities might abuse the tech to track and suppress protests – such as those carried out earlier in the year by the grassroots Yellow Vests movement.

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