Outgoing minister Grapperhaus returns to earlier statements that the Dutch police do not use facial recognition. He now only says that ‘no permission is given’. There is no further clarity about the use of Clearview yet.
The Minister of Justice and Security writes that in a letter to the House of Representatives. In that letter, Grapperhaus nuances the words of the outgoing minister Sander Dekker of Legal Protection. He wrote in September that the Dutch police did not use Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition software. Dekker literally wrote: “Biometric surveillance, in the sense of real-time facial recognition, is currently not done in the Netherlands.” Dekker spoke on behalf of Grapperhaus in the letter.
Grapperhaus now wants to nuance that message. He ‘rephrases’ Dekker’s sentence: “The police organization does not currently give permission for the use of biometric surveillance in public space by the police, in the sense of real-time facial recognition.”
According to Grapperhaus, Dekker’s earlier sentence was too broadly defined. That sentence seemed to refer to every form of biometric surveillance in the Netherlands, and not specifically to its use within the National Police. This is clearer in the new sentence.
At the same time, the new sentence leaves much more room for interpretation. Because Grapperhaus and Dekker previously denied in their entirety that biometric surveillance was used within the police, but in the new formulation it is about permission and not about its use. It is also not clear from whom the permission should come that Grapperhaus is talking about. It can also be interpreted that the police can use Clearview, but without permission.
There is still a lot that is unclear about the use of Clearview’s software in the Netherlands. Clearview AI is an American company that has a database of photos of people, and has subsequently created software that can recognize faces in real time. Its use is controversial, and European politicians are calling for a ban on such software. From research and internal documents from Buzzfeed it appears that the software was used several times by agents in the Netherlands. On previous parliamentary questions, Grapperhaus said that it was ‘not known’ whether the software was being used in the Netherlands, but the police would not have done so. Sander Dekker later repeated that after Buzzfeed had published new information. In Belgium, the Minister of the Interior was found to have lied when she said that the Belgian police had never used Clearview.