Police removed 218,000 photos from facial recognition database last year
The Dutch police removed over 218 thousand photos from its facial recognition database last year, the National Unit announced with the annual figures for 2020. This is the first time the police gave any indication of the number of photos that were unjustly in the face database, NU.nl reports.
A police spokesperson could not tell NU.nl how many unique people were removed from the database. The spokesperson did say that all the deleted photos came from a system that was mainly used until 2010. In 2010 it became mandatory for the police to also take photos of suspects in pre-trial detention.
The police use its facial recognition system, called CATCH, to help identify suspects. Images from security cameras, for example, are compared with the 2.65 million photos in the database. A match can help the police identify a suspect.
The database consists of photos of suspects and convicts. The police have to remove a photo once a person is no longer suspected of any crime. Earlier this year, NU.nl reported that this did not always happen.
Comparisons in the CATCH system yield about a hundred identifications per year. Last year, there were 116 matches in the system. The years before that there were 98, 82 and 93 matches.
The police are currently investigating in how many cases the matches turned out to really be the same person, the spokesperson said to the newspaper. It is also unclear to what extent CATCH contributes to the arrest or conviction of suspects.
Without that information, it is impossible to assess whether the breach of privacy the system entails is proportionate to its contribution to the justice system.