Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

France plans to use facial recognition to let citizens access government services

October 3, 2019
A woman takes a selfie
A woman takes a selfieMs. Tech | Original images: Pexels/Unsplash

The news: France is planning to incorporate facial recognition technology into a mandatory digital identity for its citizens, Bloomberg reports. It’s part of plans to roll out an ID program, called Alicem, in November. The government claims the app will “make the state more efficient” by letting citizens access public services like taxes or social security online, using their secure digital identity.

How Alicem will work: Facial recognition will be the only way for citizens in France to create a legal digital ID, through a one-time enrollment that compares a user’s passport photos with a selfie video taken on the Alicem app.

A snag: France’s data regulator has said the program breaks European rules requiring consent for data collection, and it is being challenged in France’s top administrative court. There are concerns over how secure Alicem is, after a hacker took just an hour to break into it earlier this year. However, neither issue has deterred France’s interior ministry from proceeding with the scheme.

Far from alone: Singapore is building a facial recognition ID scheme for government services, while India uses iris scans as part of its national Aadhaar identity system. However, France’s government insists that, unlike China’s, its ID system won’t be used to monitor citizens, or integrated into identity databases. It says face scans will be deleted when the enrollment process is over.

Sign up here for our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Roomba testers feel misled after intimate images ended up on Facebook

An MIT Technology Review investigation recently revealed how images of a minor and a tester on the toilet ended up on social media. iRobot said it had consent to collect this kind of data from inside homes—but participants say otherwise.

How to spot AI-generated text

The internet is increasingly awash with text written by AI software. We need new tools to detect it.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.