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Face surveillance vs Facial Authentication: What is it and why should biometric mass surveillance be banned in the public space?

Dienstag, 26. Januar 2021 um 16:00 - 17:30

Please register here to join the event

Often when people think of facial recognition, they think about unlocking their phones with their face. Facial authentication is used to verify that someone is who they say they are, when for example gaining secured access to a building or traveling through a passport gate. This is a one-to-one comparison.

Facial recognition, on the other hand, is used to identify a person in crowds, on the streets or in pictures, so you can see who someone is. This means a face can be matched with a huge database of faces to determine who you are, even without your consent. This is a one-to-many comparison.

Now, why exactly is opening your phone with your face less risky than facial recognition in the public space? And what are the specific risks that facial recognition entails?

In this event, we will discuss with experts how both techniques are different – both in how they work and in the degree of consent provided. Together with international experts. we will address the different risks, from bias and discrimination, serious privacy concerns, mass surveillance to rule of law.

Not only is the entire principle of biometric surveillance an enormous breach of our right to privacy, because it happens without our consent, let alone our knowledge. We do not want a society in which people are automatically judged and classified based on their appearances.

This event will discuss the dangers of using facial recognition technologies in the public space with experts and NGO’s, bring these issues to the attention of the broader public and see what would be the best way forward.


  • Lotte Houwing: Policy advisor and researcher at Bits of Freedom. She focuses primarily on the relationship between the state and its citizens and the power relations that accompany it.
  • Irina Orssich Team leader for AI Policy in AI Policy Development and Coordination, European Commission.
  • Dr. Nakeema Stefflbauer Founder and CEO of the German non-profit organization, FrauenLoop, Dr. Stefflbauer’swork focuses on the impact of artificial intelligence adoption on marginalized communities.
  • Simon Ilse Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Office Belgrade – Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo

Draft Programme

Opening by MEP Tineke Strik
Panel discussion moderated by MEP Kim van Sparrentak:

  • 16:10- 16:30 Differences between facial recognition and authentication
  • 16:30-17:00 Different rules that apply to both technologies at EU level
  • 17:00-17:10 Response, European Commission
  • 17:10-17:25 Q&A moderated by MEP Kim van Sparrentak
    17:25-17:30 Closing remark by MEP Patrick Breyer

Please register here to join the event