Children's Hospital to purchase CCTV cameras with facial-recognition capacity

Children's Hospital to purchase CCTV cameras with facial-recognition capacity
An artist's impression of the new National Children's Hospital.

The National Children's Hospital has said it is purchasing cameras capable of facial recognition and storing the images.

The technology is similar to a system used in China for surveillance. It can count how many people are in a room, analyse people's faces and keep up to date with their movements within the facility.

A spokesperson has said that 3% of all the CCTV cameras will have the features installed and that how, or whether, they will be used has not been decided. The cameras are manufactured by by Chinese state-backed Hikvision.

UCD professor and chair of Digital Rights Ireland TJ McIntyre said: "This appears to show a purchase of very expensive equipment without any clear sense of what it's being used for.

"We seem to have a situation where the taxpayer is buying something which probably can't be used in the way it's intended."

TJ McIntyre
TJ McIntyre

Solicitor and Director of Data Compliance Europe Simon McGarr said: "This isn't a question of future-proofing because it won't get more legal to track children's faces in the future. This will never be legal later, if it's not legal now.

The appropriate form of future-proofing was to examine whether or not facial-recognition cameras were appropriate to buy in the first place.

Technology journalist Andy O'Donoghue says the EU is trying to clamp down on facial recognition software being used. He said: "The European Commission is planning regulation that will give EU citizens explicit rights over their facial recognition data.

"What they're trying to stop is this, sort of, indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology when it's certainly one that hasn't been solved yet.

"We have a right to say when it's used and a right to know when it's being used."

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board said all cameras in use in the €1.7bn hospital "will be fully in line with Irish and European data protection and privacy legislation and guidelines".

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