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Malta deep-sixes safe city facial recognition project after Huawei contract expires

Malta appears to have changed course on a plan to launch a CCTV network with facial recognition through a contract with Huawei.

The Safe City Malta project is being discontinued after the contract expired and the state-owned company tasked with implementing the system was dissolved, according to MaltaToday.

A pilot for a facial recognition surveillance network in Malta’s tourist areas was rolled out in 2017. The government announced plans to deploy the system across the country in 2018, and quickly drew criticism from a host of observers, including UN Data Protection Rapporteur Joseph Cannataci and EU Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova.

Government budget documents show that the Safe City company was receiving 400,000 Euros (approximately US$430,000) a year.

Former Safe City Director Joseph Cuschieri told MaltaToday that the plan had been to use “advanced video surveillance,” which could warn law enforcement about violent incidents, rather than facial recognition, throughout the system.

Despite this distinction, Cannataci had expressed reservations about the legal basis for such a deployment.

Concerns about how the data collected by Huawei would be used also contributed to widespread negative responses to the project.

Huawei is also one of the Chinese companies that has supplied public facial recognition surveillance capabilities to the junta that has governed Myanmar since it overthrew the country’s elected government in 2021.

Those capabilities are now deterring attacks against the regime by revolutionary group the People’s Defense Force, reports Asia Times.

Sources tell Asia Times that at branding has been removed from least some of the gear, but the firms supplying the regime with the biometric capability may face sanctions from the EU and UK if they are found to have broken restrictions those jurisdictions have in place.

Malta has been a member of the EU since 2004.

A similar project in Serbia with Huawei cameras supplying images for Griffeye software is facing a major hurdle in the form of data protection authority criticism and a lack of regulation to back biometrics use. Malta appears to have changed course on a plan to launch a CCTV network with facial recognition through a contract with Huawei.

The Safe City Malta project is being discontinued after the contract expired and the state-owned company tasked with implementing the system was dissolved, according to MaltaToday.

A pilot for a facial recognition surveillance network in Malta’s tourist areas was rolled out in 2017. The government announced plans to deploy the system across the country in 2018, and quickly drew criticism from a host of observers, including UN Data Protection Rapporteur Joseph Cannataci and EU Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova.

Government budget documents show that the Safe City company was receiving 400,000 Euros (approximately US$430,000) a year.

Former Safe City Director Joseph Cuschieri told MaltaToday that the plan had been to use “advanced video surveillance,” which could warn law enforcement about violent incidents, rather than facial recognition, throughout the system.

Despite this distinction, Cannataci had expressed reservations about the legal basis for such a deployment.

Concerns about how the data collected by Huawei would be used also contributed to widespread negative responses to the project.

Huawei is also one of the Chinese companies that has supplied public facial recognition surveillance capabilities to the junta that has governed Myanmar since it overthrew the country’s elected government in 2021.

Those capabilities are now deterring attacks against the regime by revolutionary group the People’s Defense Force, reports Asia Times.

Sources tell Asia Times that at branding has been removed from least some of the gear, but the firms supplying the regime with the biometric capability may face sanctions from the EU and UK if they are found to have broken restrictions those jurisdictions have in place.

Malta has been a member of the EU since 2004.

A similar project in Serbia with Huawei cameras supplying images for Griffeye software is facing a major hurdle in the form of data protection authority criticism and a lack of regulation to back biometrics use.  Read More   

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