French Facial ID Program Plan is Premature, Minister Says

James Regan

(Bloomberg) -- The French government’s plan to launch facial recognition technology in November with the aim of giving citizens secure digital identities “seems premature,” Digital Minister Cedric O told Le Monde newspaper.

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that France was poised to become the first European country to embrace the technology, in spite of opposition from several quarters. It reported that the government was bringing forward the roll-out of the ID program, dubbed Alicem, to November, earlier than an initial Christmas target.

The system, designed to give access to everything from income tax information and banking to social security services and utility bills, breaches the European rule of consent, France’s data regulator has said. A privacy group is challenging it in France’s highest administrative court.

Asked about the November roll-out, the minister said “it’s a proposition that’s been made, but this date seems premature to me,” adding that it would not be implemented more widely until the government had received feedback on the issue from the national digital council and following a study led by two members of parliament.

The government plans to hold a public debate in order to weigh questions about balancing how the technology is used with civil liberties. It also doesn’t want domestic companies to be left behind in what it sees as a key area for technological development.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Regan in Paris at jregan65@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Geraldine Amiel at gamiel@bloomberg.net, Vidya Root

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