Experts denounce the government’s plan to use facial recognition cameras on the Ceuta and Melilla border

  • More than 40 civil organizations warn that the use of Artificial Intelligence can lead to discrimination and violation of basic rights

  • Interior has allocated 4.1 million euros to deploy a “smart border” in front of Morocco, as established by the European Union border plan

The government from Spain has been working for months on the construction of a “smart border” that equips the border posts that separate the autonomous cities of Ceuta Y Melilla of Morocco with cameras facial recognition. Although the executive’s plan follows the guidelines set by Brussels, a network of humanitarian and social organizations denounced this Thursday that the use of Artificial intelligence (AI) can violate the Fundamental rights of those who try to set foot on European territory.

Until now, non-EU citizens who want to enter Spain their personal information and a document proving their identity are collected. The plan agreed in 2017 by the European Comission complements that model with the use of cameras recognition devices that detect the faces of travelers, collect four fingerprints, record the dates and places of entries and exits and also the cases of refusal.

At the end of 2019, the Ministry of Interior advanced that the deployment of this new border IT tool would cost 4.1 million euros. The works were to be completed in a period of 24 months that has not been met.

Risk of racist discrimination

This system is viewed with concern by more than 40 civil organizations specialized in the defense of digital rights and in the protection of vulnerable groups such as migrants. “The ‘smart border’ poses a danger of discrimination and criminalization and turns it into a new racist device within the Spanish State & rdquor ;, denounces the joint letter Posted this Thursday.

And it is that, far from being perfect, AI systems incur more identification errors with people of color and with minors, since they train the accuracy of their algorithms with data mostly from Caucasians and adults. As has been seen in the Netherlands, these mistakes can destroy the lives of thousands of people. “In London, facial recognition has led the police to retain people of color rather than whites. The same thing will happen at the borders & rdquor ;, he explains to EL PERIÓDICO Ana Valdivia, associate researcher in computer science at King’s College London and one of the promoters of the statement.

That is why the more than 40 organizations that denounce this measure ask that they be allowed external audits to detect flaws in the algorithm and systematically incorporate human rights observers at the border posts where these cameras are applied. “Until now they have rejected the audits because they say that it is sensitive information, but it is not true, the error rate can be analyzed according to gender, ethnicity or demographics without exposing the privacy of the algorithm & rdquor ;, adds Valdivia, doctor in AI.

Efficiency and terrorism

The main argument put forward to implement the “intelligent border & rdquor; is its supposed efficiency in speeding up border controls. All the stored data would be crossed with those registered in the identity controls that exist in the Spanish ports and airports to verify the coincidence between entries and exits. In other words, this AI system seeks to automatically detect who enters and leaves the country and launch alerts if a foreigner is in the country. schengen area European free movement with expired visa. These data would be kept between three and five years and then should be deleted. Despite this promise, government sources told ‘El País’ that the border will be more secure “but with a less agile flow.”

The European Union (EU) works in a regulation that prohibits facial recognition systems on the understanding that they have a “high risk & rdquor; but it allows them in exceptional cases for security, crime or terrorism prevention, which opens the door to their use at borders. “Since the 9/11 attacks, the pretext of terrorism to avoid the control of this type of measure & rdquor ;, denounces Valdivia. The signatory organizations ask to eliminate this exceptionality.

The statement also notes that the collection of biometric data of vulnerable people violates their privacy and may have “unintended consequences”, such as speeding up the transfer of asylum seekers from one EU member state to another against their will. The Dublin Convention It establishes that migrants must request asylum in the first European country they enter, even if their families reside in another.

border challenge

Related news

Morocco closed its border on March 14, 2020 forced by the outbreak of the crisis of the coronavirus. After almost two years of closure, it is expected to reopen during the first half of this year, although there is no specific date yet. The complex situation in Ceuta and Melilla —over which Rabat claims sovereignty— led the executive of Pedro Sanchez to create a commission last December to study the plan to reopen the borders, as advanced ‘The country‘. The departments of the Presidency, Territorial Policy, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Treasury, Health and the secret service (CNI) participate in this commission.

In addition to the so-called “smart border”, the reopening of Morocco’s borders poses other major challenges for the Spanish Government, such as the commercial and economic situation of Ceuta and Melilla, the possibility of including them in the Schengen area, the compatibility of vaccines against him covid-19 between territories or requests for asylum and refuge.

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