Secretive. Unlawful. Inhumane.

When monitored, we change behaviour and self-censor.
When categorised, we are judged and discriminated against.

It's a vicious circle of power imbalances.



The powerful watch the powerless

We have no information about the real motivations behind the use of biometrics in public spaces by companies and our governments. The introduction of these technologies is done in secrecy, without clear evidence on the need for biometric mass surveillance.

Mass surveillance is prohibited in EU law. More, biometric data is particularly sensitive under EU's laws on personal data. The combination between biometric data and mass surveillance results in an unlawful practice that unfairly treats everyone like a suspect. It violates our right to express freely, to assemble, to speak against injustices and to live without discrimination.

Our qualities, behaviour, emotions, characteristics are used against us. Our dignity is under threat! People are objectified, commodified, dehumanised. More, the use of technologies like facial recognition are manipulative, for example coercing people into avoiding certain places or events.

What the f...ace is biometric mass surveillance?

  • Biometric data includes data about our body or behaviour: fingerprint, palmprint, palm veins, face recognition, DNA, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina recognition, typing rhythm, walking manner, voice and much more.

    Companies in Europe and globally are 'innovating' to try and find new ways to try to capture your identity: the structure of your veins, the way you distribute your weight on a chair, your face when wearing a mask. Yet under European data protection law, biometric data are especially sensitive. Such data are linked to our individual identities, and can be used to infer protected and intimate information about who we are, our health and more.

  • Biometric mass surveillance is any monitoring, tracking, and otherwise processing of the biometric data of individuals or groups in an indiscriminate or arbitrarily-targeted manner.

    When used to scan everyone in public or publicly-accessible spaces (a form of mass surveillance) or in situations of large imbalances of power, biometric processing violates a wide range of fundamental rights. It can have a ‘chilling effect’ on basic freedoms such as expression and assembly. Profiling based on the processing of such data can result in severe violations of the right to non-discrimination, and uses which claim to predict emotions or behaviour have no reliable scientific foundation.

  • Facial recognition is a process which captures and analyses data from people's faces, and uses it to make predictions about who that person is, or whether they match a certain image (such as on a passport or a police watchlist). Facial recognition is becoming increasingly common in European public spaces. There are many reasons for this, including increases in data processing capacity in recent years; advances in technology that can remotely capture people's face data at a distance; and claims from some governments that facial recognition will improve public safety.

    This is a form of 'biometric mass surveillance' because it takes people's face data (which is a type of their biometric data) and uses it to watch and analyse them. By scanning the faces of all people in public spaces, or targeting it against individuals in an arbitrary way, this constitutes a form of mass surveillance. It can lead to a disproportionate interference with many fundamental rights, and can amplify discrimination against minoritised groups. It is undemocratic, and puts limitations on how everyone can exist in and enjoy public spaces.

  • Your fingerprints are a globally unique biometric identifier that stays with you for your lifetime. Once governments, authorities, companies, secret services or criminals get hold of them, you will not be able to undo the damage. Fingerprints are highly sensitive biometric data. This is why governments and others want them so badly.

    If citizens are obliged to allow their fingers to be scanned and their fingerprints to be saved (for example on ID cards or in data bases), this data will be used for more and more purposes. Over time, digital fingerprints will be shared around the world in various databases. So don’t forget: Reclaim Your Face also means Reclaim Your Fingerprints - and any other biometric prints and templates!

    For more information, take a look at the national actions we are taking



Want to learn more?

Watch SHARE Foundation's documentary on a secret partnership between Huawei and the Serbian government which is turning Belgrade into a digital dystopia

Watch now

Watch EDRi explain how Europe's biometric Surveillance-Industrial complex is fuelling the violation of human rights

Watch now

ReclaimYourFace is a movement led by civil society organisations across Europe:

Access Now ARTICLE19 Bits of Freedom CCC Digitalcourage EDRi Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights Homo Digitalis IuRe La Quadrature du Net Panoptykon Foundation Privacy International SHARE Foundation