Protect My Face: Brussels residents join the fight against biometric mass surveillance

The newly-launched Protect My Face campaign gives residents of the Brussels region of Belgium the opportunity to oppose mass facial recognition. EDRi applauds this initiative which demands that the Brussels Parliament ban these intrusive and discriminatory practices.

By EDRi · March 29, 2023

Eight Brussels-based organisations working across human rights and anti-surveillance have come together to launch Protect My Face. This regional campaign focusing on Brussels calls for an explicit ban on facial recognition. Among the NGOs responsible for this action are two of Belgium’s leading human rights groups: EDRi member the Liga voor Mensenrechten, and our Reclaim Your Face partner the Ligue des droits humains. For many years we have worked together to call for a ban on biometric mass surveillance across Europe – a demand which now sees unprecedented support from politicians in the European Parliament.

As one of the official seats of the European Parliament, Brussels is in some ways the beating heart of democracy in Europe. Yet with almost no transparency or oversight, people around the region have been the victims of secretive, disproportionate and rights-violating uses of facial recognition for many years. Federal police subjected people to unlawful facial recognition at the Brussels Zaventem airport in 2017 and 2019. And despite a warning from the police oversight board, the federal police also carried our several searches using the controversial Clearview AI facial recognition software in recent years.

Through the long-running Reclaim Your Face campaign, EDRi and our partners have long argued that facial recognition and other forms of biometric mass surveillance, which use our faces and bodies against us, pose an unacceptable risk to our rights and freedoms. They create the possibility to permanently track and monitor us in public spaces, and can particularly affect our right to demonstrations because of how they create a ‘chilling effect’. Biometric mass surveillance also poses a high risk of discrimination, being even more harmful for racialised people, queer people, homeless people and other minoritised groups.

This new petition is the first step in a regional campaign which gives the power to Brussels residents to demand action from the Brussels Parliament to protect our faces. In particular, the petition calls for the Parliament to ban facial recognition in public places and for identification purposes, and to grant the NGOs a hearing before the Parliament. This is an important chance to put a stop to these discriminatory, intrusive technologies of mass surveillance.

Are you a resident of the Brussels region? Join the fight against biometric mass surveillance by signing the new petition by the Protect My Face coalition:



Ella Jakubowska

Senior Policy Advisor

Twitter: @ellajakubowska1