French Fetish for Spying: Police/Interior Ministries Illicitly Employ Israeli VSA for Facial Recognition
French police services and the interior ministry had both been utilizing the Israeli algorithmic video surveillance technology (VSA) or “Video Synopsis”—developed by Briefcam–since 2015, all the while maintaining the secrecy of its operations. In addition, they planned to make use of this equipment during the 2024 Olympic Games, reported French media source Disclose on Tuesday.
In Disclose, the Ministry of the Interior provided a Video Synopsis. The software at issue possesses the technology to follow a person across a network of cameras based on the color of their sweater, for example. It can also trace a vehicle via its license plate and can consolidate many hours of footage into mere seconds.
Until last May, French police employed the VSA only in extremely rare circumstances. However, as a prelude to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, the French government was successful in obtaining a statute enacted in parliament enabling the national police force’s wide-scale experimentation until March 31, 2025.
Due to the risk of privacy invasion, deputies have generally been prohibited from using facial recognition technology, which obviously identifies a person in photographs based on facial traits.
This is a rather invasive gadget that can be enabled with only a few mouse clicks by utilizing the Briefcam software which Gérald Darmanin’s crew is quite familiar with.
The Departmental Public Security Directorate (DDSP) of Seine-et-Marne was tapped to test the Israeli software eight years ago. The application was widely implemented two years later, in 2017. Also making use of the apparatus at this time is the Service Interministériel d’Assistance Technique (SIAT), a police unit in charge of infiltrating, wiretapping, and major crime monitoring.
According to the company’s website, facial recognition enables “the detection, tracking, extraction, classification, and cataloging” of a person’s face.
Briefcam equips municipal police in nearly 200 French towns.
Briefcam, founded in 2008 by three lecturers from the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the Israel Hebrew University of Jerusalem, equips Israeli, American, Brazilian, and Singaporean forces in addition to French law enforcement agencies.