Danish football club to use face recognition
24 June 2019 16:48 GMT

The Danish football club Brøndby IF has announced that starting in July 2019, automated facial recognition (AFR) technology will be deployed at Brøndby Stadium.

It will be used to identify persons that have been banned from attending Brøndby IF football matches for violations of the club’s own rules of conduct. The AFR system will use cameras that scan the public area in front of the stadium entrances, so that persons on the ban list can be ”picked out” from the crowd before reaching the entrance.

The use of AFR technology at Brøndby Stadium comes with prior approval from the Danish Data Protection Authority (DPA) which is a requirement in the Data Protection Act, as explained below. Brøndby IF is the first company to secure an approval for using AFR in Denmark.

Under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a person constitutes sensitive personal data (special categories of personal data in Article 9). This covers AFR. Article 9(1) of the GDPR prohibits the processing of sensitive personal data unless one of the conditions in Article 9(2) applies. The explicit consent of the data subject [Article 9(2)(a)] is one of these conditions, and generally speaking the most relevant one for private controllers. Consent cannot be the legal basis for using AFR at a football stadium though, since consent must be voluntary.

GDPR Article 9(2)(g) allows processing of sensitive personal data if the processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest, on the basis of EU or Member State law, which must be proportionate to the aim pursued. The law must provide for suitable and specific measures to safeguard the fundamental rights and the interests of the data subject.

Based on Article 9(2)(g), the Danish GDPR supplementary provisions (“Data Protection Act”) contains a general carve-out from the prohibition of processing sensitive personal data. Section 7(4) of the Data Protection Act provides that ”the processing of data covered by Article 9(1) of the GDPR may take place if the processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest.” Prior authorisation from the DPA is required for controllers that are not public authorities, and this authorisation may lay down more detailed terms for the processing.

Denmark has no specific national law providing a legal basis for the use of AFR by controllers along with suitable safeguards for data subjects. However, Section 7(4) can be used to allow any processing of sensitive personal data by law, including AFR, assuming that the threshold of substantial public interest is met. The explanatory remarks of Section 7(4) state that the provision must be interpreted narrowly, but the actual scope of the open-ended derogation is left to administrative practice by public controllers and authorisation decisions by the DPA for processing by private controllers.