Privacy groups protest Berlin biometric train trial
25 August 2017 13:59 GMT

Protestors have disrupted a vist by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to Berlin's train station, as the minister was checking on progress in a facial recognition pilot project. 

Members of "Digital Courage," a German privacy and digital rights organization, wore mask and costumes.

The group claims that the technology used in the tests would create more extensive profiles of the country's citizens than advocates of the project admit.

Digital Courage representatives told media that more data had been gathered from 300 testers who volunteered for the project than the government had initially said.

While it is clear that the volunteers had carred a transponder that transmits data on ambient temperature, battery status and signal strength, activist Paul Gerstenkorn from  Digital Courage said their location and more was also being tracked.

With the help of his smartphone, Gerstenkorn easily detected the number of testers within a radius of 20 meters (66 feet), while de Maizière was fielding questions from journalists. The word "blukii," the name of the transponder used for the facial recognition field trial, appeared 10 times on Gerstenkorn's phone screen.

German Data Protection Commissioner Andrea Vosshoff says the police have not "sufficiently" informed the testers, and called for the project to be temporarily halted.

But the interior minister has efended the project, saying the technology is not being used to catch petty criminals such as shoplifters, but terrorists and serious offenders. Four weeks into the test phase, De Maizière has praised its "surprising accuracy" - specifically referring to people recognized by the software whose pictures are already stored in police databases.

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