Swiss government to increase facial-recognition camera use

Swiss government to increase facial-recognition camera use

The Swiss government is preparing to launch a new system of facial recognition cameras, after a number of Swiss cantons already initiated similar measures. Swiss police currently use fingerprint and palm print matching devices to identify criminals in legal cases, but soon, facial recognition software will be made available too. 

Swiss federal police will use facial recognition data to solve crimes

According to a statement from Switzerland’s federal police, surveillance cameras will soon be able to automatically match footage to results from the country’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) - a system which also stores facial recognition data. Statistics from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) show that there are already 400.000 faces available on the database. 

Some private companies are already using facial recognition software as part of their security and business strategies. Swiss public transport operator SBB announced earlier in 2023 that they would be deploying the technology to track passenger habits so that they can raise and lower rental costs for shops based on how many visitors they attract. 

Social media pictures will not be included in Swiss police database

At the moment, the data that will be collected and added to the Swiss police database is limited. The federal police say that photographs from social media profiles, residence permits and ID cards will not be included in the database. 

Images will also not be compared automatically in real-time, rather, they will be matched automatically during analysis. "There is no legal basis for this [real-time facial recognition] in Switzerland", the federal police stated. 

However, police will be able to access and match facial recognition footage to help them identify suspects in criminal cases and resolve legal matters with more efficiency in court. Despite having the support of the government, some are concerned about the accuracy of the cameras. 

Man jailed for one week after facial recognition error

There have been renewed concerns about the accuracy of facial recognition: the New York Times reported that in March 2023, a man spent a week in jail thanks to an error caused by a facial recognition system. This case has been used as an example by campaigners that are worried about the implications of the software. 

CCTV cameras in Switzerland are already able to detect numberplates to identify drivers, and the country’s police already have the power to cross-check finger-and-handprints with a centrally-stored database. Supporters argue that the new facial recognition powers could bring even more evidence to court to help tackle crime in Switzerland.



Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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