Indivd at Nordic Privacy Arena “We have eliminated the huge risks of facial recognition”

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Image Copyright: Jens Reiterer, 2019

The rapid technological development has recently raised issues regarding threats to people’s personal integrity and freedom. That’s one of the reasons why the Swedish organisation Forum för Dataskydd has organized Nordic Privacy Arena for several years. The event this year was held at the Munich Brewery in Stockholm on September 23-24 and some of the speakers where Anders Ygeman, The Swedish Digitization Minister, and the Archbishop Antje Jackelén. Fredrik Amréus Hammargården, co-founder of startup company Indivd, was also invited to participate in the final panel discussion on Monday.

The panel noted that developments in China are frightening and not desirable at all. Today’s fast digitalization development have created a hunger from everyone to gain access to as much data as possible in. But what happens when we have a government that doesn’t care much about human rights? What is happening in China might as well happen in Europe. The panel therefore unanimously stated that they was concerned about the development and did not have any happy thoughts at all about the use of biometric data, such as fingerprints and facial recognition.

“What does this mean for the next generation if we normalize these technologies. It will affect our future human rights. The risks are huge. That’s why it is important, from a democratic point of view, that we regulate this today.”

Long development journey

The curiosity and skepticism towards Indivd’s technical solution with anonymized facial recognition was huge. Fredrik Amréus Hammargården replied on a direct question about the technology:

“We started our journey by thinking about privacy issues five years ago after a meeting with a store chain. The store expressed a need to be able to analyze customers’ behaviors and at the same time felt concerns about the use of facial recognition. This led us to think about what kind of technology we should and legally could use. A question and solution our AI guru Leonard Johard then worked for two years to develop, a solution we have chosen to call anonymous facial recognition.”

Legal technology

The immediate question from the panel was how this could be possible. They felt that the concept of anonymized facial recognition feels like an anomaly, which is a scientific term for a fact that contradicts a paradigm, a general theory or worldview.

“The methodology we use is to process images from cameras and anonymize the data immediately in the course of 1-2 milliseconds and deletes all personal data. The data after anonymization is no longer personal data, data we pass on for analysis. What we collect and manage is population data, individuals are impossible to re-identify. We re-identify populations and can understand how the populations generally behave and what choices they make in the store. “

Fredrik Amréus Hammargården continued:

“Our technology is considered to be legal according to GDPR and is completely different from traditional facial recognition. We have not done the legal evaluation ourselves. We have gone through a massive legal process with the help of GDPR specialists and lawyers. We have really made an effort to do everything ‘by the book’. The problem we see is that many companies are taking the easiest way forward. We have instead chosen to prove that there are other ways to go. We and the stores we work with do not want to store any personal information at all. That is why we have developed a new way to create value for customers.”

The Swedish Data Protection Authority wants to know more

The Swedish Data Protection Authority explained that they welcome new privacy-friendly ideas and technologies, but that GDPR places high demands on when and how biometric data can be used. “I cannot today, before we have seen Indivd’s product, analyze the technology in detail, but can conclude that it is unlikely that it could be called anonymised in the sense of GDPR. At present, I simply do not understand how it could be possible to use face recognition technology that does not identify a person at any stage, especially since the law applies to all forms of processing – not just storage – of biometric data. I would like to know more and I think it is good that you have already used lawyers and data security experts to evaluate the technology in addition to the development, “concluded Frida Orring, legal adviser at the Data Inspectorate.

To learn more about Indivd, Indivd’s technology and the debate about facial recognition, listen to the Swedish interview with Fredrik Amréus Hammargården in The Privacy Pod (Privacypodden):

For more information contact:

Fredrik Hammargården, Head of Commercialization, 004673 840 65 27,

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