Regulating facial recognition in Latin America

Policy lessons from police surveillance in Buenos Aires and São Paulo
Research paper Published 11 November 2022 ISBN: 978 1 78413 540 9 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135409
A man looks up at a solar-powered robot with three cameras and a loudspeaker attached.

Carolina Caeiro

Academy Associate, US and the Americas Programme

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years have driven the rapid development of facial recognition technologies. Jurisdictions around the world have begun to grapple with the question of how to regulate their use.

In Latin America, the deployment of facial recognition in public spaces for police surveillance has seen a swift take-up. With crime being an issue of great concern to voters across the region, many public officials have supported facial recognition rollouts on the grounds that this type of surveillance can enhance public safety. However, depending on how it is deployed, facial recognition has the potential to threaten a range of human rights, including rights of individuals to privacy, to freedom of expression, to non-discrimination and to freedom of assembly and association.

Using the examples of recent deployments in the major urban centres of Buenos Aires and São Paulo, this research paper argues that Latin America is caught in a worst-case scenario: the technology is already in use without adequate protections in place. As a way forward, the paper recommends that policymakers in Latin America focus on building robust safeguards to protect the rights of the regions citizens, and ensure that authorized uses of facial recognition steer clear of ‘no-go zones such as the indiscriminate use of live facial recognition.