SBB u-turns on proposal for widespread facial recognition camera use

SBB u-turns on proposal for widespread facial recognition camera use

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has u-turned on its controversial plans to use facial recognition cameras at its train stations after strong criticism from the public. Under the revised proposal, the firm will push ahead with the new cameras, but they will not be using facial recognition software. 

Facial recognition plans wanted to detect characteristics of passengers

The original plans were drawn up to allow SBB to collect data on the behaviour of passengers travelling through their railway stations. This information was said to include classifications of gender and age, as well as facial data. 

However, the plans received much backlash from SBB passengers and the public at large, who were concerned over the potential misuse of data and the implications that storing data taken from train stations without passengers' explicit consent could have on an individual's right to privacy. 

At the time of the announcement, SBB stressed that data would not be held on specific individuals or passed to third parties, and would just be used to make internal business decisions relating to the cost and efficiency of stations.

SBB no longer wants to use gender and age in its business modelling

Since the proposals received so much criticism, SBB’s stance on the issue appears to have changed. According to SRF, SBB has stated that data privacy is a priority for the company and therefore the new cameras will no longer include facial recognition software. 

The company will still use cameras to assess passenger flow and use this data to make informed business decisions. They are also in the process of consulting with the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner to check if the new cameras are in line with data protection regulations in Switzerland. 

Thumb image credit: / Michael Derrer Fuchs



Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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