The Malta Independent 24 June 2019, Monday

‘Facial recognition cameras have been announced at the right time’ – GRTU official

Rachel Attard Saturday, 27 October 2018, 09:21 Last update: about 9 months ago

"Facial recognition cameras have been announced at the right time," Philip Fenech, President of the General Retailers and Traders Union's (GRTU) Hospitality and Leisure division told The Malta Independent.

Fenech said that the GRTU welcomed the initiative which was announced in last Monday's budget. These cameras will be installed in the Paceville and Marsa area.

Last Monday, during the Budget 2019 speech, Minister for Finance Edward Scicluna said that, "work is being done to set up the Joint Innovation Centre (JIC) to develop the concept of "Safe City" in Malta, particularly in the use of advanced technology in telecommunications, facial recognition, and IT to "strengthen security where it is needed".


Scicluna said that work was carried out over the past months to install apparatus necessary in a data center for experimental use in a private environment "in total respect of the privacy laws."  Finance Minister said these cameras will "strengthen security, and control anti-social behavior, in a legal framework where human rights are respected."

In comments given to this newsroom, Fenech said that this was an issue which the hospitality and entertainment industry had been asking the government to install for a long time.

Fenech said that this will serve as a deterrent for any crime and abnormal behaviour. "Also, until now, when there is incident or a particular situation the police ask the Paceville establishment owners to provide them with CCTV footage from their own cameras. This was causing the owners an inconvenience, Fenech said. 

Fenech said that these cameras will also be helping the management of the area, such as traffic flow, infrastructural works which will be taking place so as to make sure that there will be no impact on the running of the establishments in Paceville.  He told this newsroom that these cameras will help the logistical work and monitoring of the area.

Earlier this month this newsroom published an interview with, Professor Joseph Cannataci, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, and Reuben Farrugia, a senior lecturer at the University of Malta in the Faculty of Information & Communication Technology, and also an expert in the fields of image processing and biometrics.

Farrugia explained that with a 97% success rate with images, "it's hard to deny that the potential uses of this technology raise many questions as to the real implications this may have on our daily lives".

Professor Cannataci argues that "politicians and companies may say whatever they please, but the law and our privacy need to be respected".

In the same interview, which covered a range of topics in the world of privacy and technology, Cannataci and Farrugia also spoke about the differences between CCTV and imagery facial recognition, and the various potential breaches of privacy such a technology may commit.

Speaking to journalists earlier this week, PM Joseph Muscat acknowledged that this was a very controversial issue and said the government was in talks with the Data Protection Commissioner. He said the CCTV cameras would be used retrospectively, adding that the government did not agree with a Big Brother approach. Asked if the police would be responsible for running the system, Muscat said that was one of the issues that would be addressed during the public consultation.


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