São Paulo metro forced to halt facial recognition roll-out

The company operating the transport network faces major financial losses as appeal gets denied.


The company running the São Paulo metro system will not be able to go ahead with the implementation of facial recognition software after having its appeal denied as part of a civil lawsuit over the matter.

In the latest development of the court case initiated by human rights and consumer rights organizations, the São Paulo Court of Justice maintained an earlier decision that ordered the interruption of the roll-out in March.

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The organizations are calling for the suspension of the use of "massive and indiscriminate" facial recognition technology, which is part of a surveillance system and would impact over 4 million people who travel in the metro system on a daily basis.

The claimants argued that the electronic monitoring system would involve facial recognition, with images of metro users captured by a system called SecurOS. The goal is to store data, and there is a possibility that SecurOS will be integrated with other electronic monitoring systems based on facial recognition.

As part of the civil lawsuit against the Companhia do Metropolitano de São Paulo (METRO), the organizations are also claiming collective damages of at least 42 million Brazilian reais ($9 million). The amount relates to the value of the contract for the implementation of the technology.

The decision announced in March was based on the risk of infringement of the fundamental rights of citizens. Challenging the ruling, METRO said that its system "strictly complies with the General Data Protection Regulations (LGPD)."

In the latest ruling by judge Maria Laura Tavares, there was no "plausible justification" for allowing the company to proceed with the project, and the earlier decision was aimed at "preventing the execution of the system for capturing and processing subway users' biometric data for use in facial recognition systems."

Back in March, the previous decision around the case had acknowledged that the facial recognition feature was in the roadmap of the surveillance system but had not yet gone live. Conversely, it had also been noted that the company behind the São Paulo metro system did not provide details on how the feature would be used and how personal data would be handled.

On the other hand, the earlier decision also acknowledged METRO would suffer "irreversible damages" in the event of the suspension of the roll-out. The latest decision will be maintained until the pool of organizations behind the civil action manifest themselves in the case.

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