Portimão council has been told it cannot use state-of-the-art CCTV using A.I. (artificial intelligence) – already commonly used in countries like the UK, United States and China – due to European data protection legislation.
The system council chiefs were being advised to install was to have concentrated on Praia da Rocha, notorious as a ‘trouble spot’ for tourists – particularly after dark in the peak summer holiday season.
But the commission for data protection has said the technology – involving what is known as ‘soft recognition’ – could be used “to allow the detection of a determined skin colour or other potentially discriminatory characteristic”.
In essence, it presents, in the commission’s opinion, “an elevated risk” for citizens’ rights to privacy.
Suggested by PSP police, the way forwards now could be for a new less intrusive proposal to be formulated – but Portimão mayoress Isilida Gomes stresses the commission’s opinion is not binding.
“If the Ministry of Internal Administration thinks we should make these alterations, we will”, she told tabloid Correio da Manhã this week.
The system envisaged involves 61 CCTV cameras, 51 of which would be located in three areas of Praia da Rocha.
The commission’s ‘veto’ – also blocking similar plans put forward by Leiria council – has been met with criticism by A.I. expert Arlindo Oliveira.
Director of INESC (the institute of engineering systems and computers), Oliveira told Público “algorithms do not create bias. An algorithm detects patterns. For this reason I have some difficulty understanding the argument that an algorithm could be discriminatory”.
He added that this kind of A.I. is “very much used to detect patterns of crime. We are talking of georeferenced algorithms that allow for the detection that in a certain place or at a certain time, crimes are likely to occur”.
The system also involves certain cameras that “recognise faces and can identify people”.
In other words, from a policing point of view, the technology would be hugely beneficial.
Arlindo Oliveira also stressed that although he understands issues surrounding ‘violation of privacy’, he is not sure these can be allowed to override the use of advanced technology for very much longer.
“I am not convinced by these restrictions”, he said. “I think we have overvalued the issue of privacy in the face of other matters. This is a European position, not simply one taken by Portugal. I think it’s inevitable that adaptations will come that relax these questions a bit”, he added, referring, says Público to the eventuality of terrorist attacks “and the need to identify those responsible.