Coalition party wants to regulate facial recognition, smart algorithms

Tweede Kamer
The Chairman's seat at the Tweede Kamerphoto: JanKranendonk / DepositPhotos

The D66 wants to regulate the use of "far-reaching" algorithms and facial recognition technology within the government. And until those regulations are in place, the party wants to ban the use of these technologies. "There must be a social debate about these types of systems," D66 MP Kees Verhoeven said to NOS. "That debate has not happened yet."

The regulations must also include SyRI, a system used by governments in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs to investigate social security fraud. Three weeks ago a lawsuit was filed about SyRI, which stands for 'system risk indication'. The government believes SyRI can help detect fraud. But the initiators of the lawsuit believe the program makes citizens suspects of fraud in advance, without there being indications for this.

The ruling on this lawsuit is only expected in January. But Verheoven believes politicians must start tackling this issue immediately. "The concerns are broader than just SyRI", he said. "In the summer it was revealed that many governments were using smart algorithms on their own." He referred to a NOS study which showed that governments use predictive algorithms to detect fraud and crime, but also to estimate the probability of a student dropping out of school or to predict what kind of healthcare someone will need, for example.

The D66 parliamentarian is also worried bout the unbridled growth of facial recognition technology. According to him, there are currently no indications that the police are linking facial recognition to security cameras, so that suspects can be recognized walking on the street. "But that is why we need to think about the limits we want to set." China proves where this technology can lead, he said. There the government is experimenting with using facial recognition to punish citizens for crimes like jaywalking, for example.