The UB Post
Public face recognition cameras violate the Constitution
By 2022, 80 percent of Ulaanbaatar's streets and squares will have cameras. In other words, camera surveillance will be set up in 6,822 points in the city to “combat” crime in Ulaanbaatar, which is estimated to reduce crime rates by more than 40 percent, according to city officials.
The city administration said the cameras would feature facial recognition.
“We will introduce a smart system to recognize human faces, and if it doesn’t recognize them, it will find them by their movements, actions and characteristics,” said Director of the Information and Technology Department of Ulaanbaatar O.Chinzorig. The facial recognition system has not been introduced yet. There has been a lot of public debate about whether to introduce facial recognition. Especially human rights lawyers and the public have been debating over the issue.
Expert L.Galbaatar said, “Even an innocent person is at risk of being questioned if he or she has a face, moves around, or behaviors similar to that of a criminal.
In accordance with the Constitution of Mongolia, a person has the right to inviolability and freedom, and it is prohibited to pursue anyone arbitrarily outside the grounds and procedures provided by law. If this system is introduced, special laws should be enacted to regulate the operation of the surveillance cameras.”
Lawyer O.Munkhsaikhan noted that according to some countries that use this technology, it is unconstitutional. It cannot be implemented directly because it is effective. There is a need for a balance between security and privacy, he emphasized.
In sparsely populated Mongolia, this system is of little importance and risks compromising human rights. It is necessary to specify in detail who will use the surveillance information, for what purpose, when and how. Many lawyers have also stressed the need for a law that states many regulations, such as who controls the integrated information of the face recognition system, which organization is responsible, the establishment of a database, and how its security will be protected.
The Law on Crime and Infringement Prevention and the Law on Infringements should include provisions to regulate the system. Due to the opposition of experts, lawyers and citizens, the system of facial recognition will not be introduced in Mongolia in the next three years. It is likely that this issue will be discussed only after the adoption of laws and regulations. That's right. Many countries around the world have introduced facial recognition systems, but the US and Europe have reportedly refused the system. However, 80 percent of the streets and squares in Ulaanbaatar are still being camera-surveilled, and work is underway to establish an integrated management system. It will cost more than 110 billion MNT. This year, 4.5 billion MNT will be spent on installation of about 1,600 cameras. Cameras will be installed at 30 intersections in Ulaanbaatar. One intersection requires 12 to 16 cameras.
There are 3,100 surveillance cameras in Ulaanbaatar, about 40 percent of which do not work. One to 2 billion MNT is allocated annually from the capital city budget for surveillance cameras. There is no owner in charge of damaged or stolen cameras, so the state and the capital's assets are “blown away”. Therefore, in accordance with the decree of the mayor of Ulaanbaatar, the Information and Technology Department will oversee camera standards and technical specifications.
It has been four years since Mongolia developed its facial recognition system with their own funding and effort. Technology director of iTools, which developed the system, Ts.Purevdorj said, “We created the source code ourselves and developed it from scratch. It is used to record the time of the company's employees. The facial recognition system stores and recognizes camera footage. The iTools system recognizes 99 percent of human faces. The system also recognizes twins well.”
The system tested the faces of 6 million people. It also identified photos of 110,000 Asian-looking people. Mongolians have a slightly different appearance from other Asian nationalities, so special attention has been paid to recognizing Mongolian faces.
LEGISLATION FOR FACE RECOGNITION SYSTEM
On August 28, Parliament passed a resolution on approval of the government action plan for 2020-2024. The action plan states, “To introduce an integrated camera system, implement a set of measures to prevent, reduce and detect crime, and ensure public security.”
In this regard, 106.3 billion MNT will be allocated from foreign loans and soft loans until 2025 for the introduction of an integrated camera system. The Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs will be responsible for the system’s legislation and related projects.
Lawyers believe that the introduction of facial recognition technology in Mongolia would seriously violate the Constitution. In particular, lawyer O.Munkhsaikhan said, “Article 16.13 of the Constitution provides for the right to inviolability and freedom. From 1937 to 1939, Mongolia shot and killed its some citizens on the grounds that they were Buryats, nobles and monks. The Constitution clearly states the right to inviolability, liberty and justice in order to prevent the recurrence of such serious human rights violations. Particularly, arbitrary arrest, detention, prosecution or restriction of liberty shall be prohibited without the grounds and procedures provided by law. Privacy is protected by law. However, if a camera with facial recognition technology is installed, there is a high probability that the right will be violated. That camera recognizes everyone.”
“Citizens did not allow the government to control their movement on public streets and squares. Smart cameras will eliminate the condition to maintain personal space in public streets and squares. In addition, the camera risks collecting a lot of information related to privacy. Particularly, it will attack the confidentiality of bank transactions, medical histories and personal relationships. There is an absolute right protected by the Constitution. The state must never violate this. These are the right to freedom of opinion, belief and freedom from torture,” he added.
Lawyer L.Galbaatar advised citizens to protect their constitutional rights.
“Violated rights can be restored. The main mechanism for protection of rights is the judiciary. However, it is doubtful whether Mongolian courts have the experience to resolve complaints related to face recognition cameras. It is wrong to install the smart camera even though there is no legal framework for who will use the data, how and in what way. Cameras should be installed once there is a legal framework that monitors the specific circumstances of the crime, not the general surveillance.”
It is unfortunate that Mongolia is planning to infringe on the rights of its citizens to privacy and freedom in the name of fighting crimes. The installation of smart cameras with facial recognition technology was previously the responsibility of Ulaanbaatar's Information and Technology Department, but is now part of the government's action plan. The department has chosen which country the camera system should be bought from, but the exact details are kept secret. It is still a national technology development company, but foreign experts are preferred. Instead of rushing, lawyers say it's not too late to talk about facial recognition technology after creating the legal environment, funding, and training.
Officials of the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia (NHRCM) say the introduction of facial recognition technology is a violation of human rights. They met with lawyers working in this field and experts from the Information and Technology Department of Ulaanbaatar and provided advice on ways to avoid human rights violations.
According to the department, the RFID system will be introduced in Ulaanbaatar to regulate traffic congestion and detect traffic violations. A face is a unique human data. The NHRCM states that permission must be obtained if the data is to be used or stored.
There are currently 45 countries with personal data protection laws. For example, the US does not have a comprehensive legislation on this, but it does have information protection provisions. California has a law on privacy in cyberspace. Face recognition cameras are banned in Boston and Auckland. In addition, 12 countries have approved the use of face recognition cameras, but have not implemented it. A total of 13 countries are considering the system, while Belgium, Luxembourg and Morocco have banned it. But why is Mongolia in such a hurry to get milk without preparing a bucket?