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.


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?

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