‘Huge distortion’ over advent of facial recognition technology, Drew Harris says

‘Huge Distortion’ Over Advent Of Facial Recognition Technology, Drew Harris Says
Drew Harris said that gardaí want to use technology to retrospectively scan footage and do not want to “push as far” as the EU directive on AI.
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said there has been “a huge distortion” over new proposed technology that could help aid police investigations.

Groups such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties have raised concern about how facial recognition technology could be used, particularly around whether it is used without warranted suspicion.


The Green Party had also raised concerns about making facial recognition technology (FRT) available to gardaí, which was addressed earlier this year when separate legislation was proposed to regulate the area.

The European Parliament recently voted to ban the use of real-time FRT in public spaces, as part of EU discussions to legislate for artificial intelligence (AI).

Speaking in the justice committee on Wednesday, Mr Harris said that gardaí want to use technology to retrospectively scan footage and do not want to “push as far” as the EU directive on AI.

He said there had been “a huge distortion in this” and the delay in its introduction had had an effect on bringing “serious” offenders to justice expeditiously, “and that is to our detriment”.


“Facial recognition technology is not actually what we’re seeking, we’re seeing facial identification,” he said.

“And the point of that is then we’re going to have thousands of hours of CCTV and using AI to go through and find every instance where we have the record of an individual who is present.

“We have no database of pictures to actually run them against.

“So the object for us is and to see what offences have been identified, and then make efforts to identify that individual through just normal police work.


“AI assists us to the point of ‘here may be a number of times you see this individual, and that individual may be engaging in criminal activity’ and it’s just so much faster, and I mean months and months faster than individual gardaí sitting in front of laptops going through thousands of hours of CCTV.

“So all the fears that are set out around facial recognition technology, we don’t even wish to push as far as the European Directive on AI, what we wish to do is retrospective investigation of serious criminality, where CCTV or other images might play a part.”

Following riots in Dublin last Thursday, Ms McEntee has requested officials to expand the scope of the FRT legislation to include riots and violent disorder.

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It had only focused on investigations of murder, rape, child sexual abuse, abduction and “serious security matters” which are subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.


The draft law is expected to be ready to be presented to Cabinet within weeks.

On Monday, Green Party TD and Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said that his party recognise FRT as “a very valuable investigative tool” but that it was also “a very powerful tool that needs safeguards”.

He said that as the party’s call for FRT to be legislated for in a “standalone” bill was agreed by government earlier this year, they now “look forward to examining it”.

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