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Remote biometric identification for law enforcement purposes: fundamental rights considerations

Remote biometric identification (RBI) systems are used to identify people at a distance by comparing their unique biometric attributes with a database. The most common form of RBI is facial recognition technology. Several EU Member States are already using, testing or planning to use it for law enforcement purposes. While the technology potentially supports fighting terrorism and solving serious crimes, it also affects people’s fundamental rights. By analysing selected use-cases, this project seeks to assess the fundamental rights risks and outline safeguards necessary for the use of this technology by law enforcement authorities.
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Remote biometric identification (RBI) systems are used to identify people at a distance by comparing their unique biometric attributes with a database. Facial recognition technology is the most common example. Several EU Member States are already using, testing, or planning to use for law enforcement purposes. This raises several fundamental rights concerns.


The use of RBI systems for law enforcement purposes in public spaces can affect several fundamental rights – from privacy and data protection to freedom of expression and non-discrimination. 

While the technology is relatively new, many organisations have already raised the alarm about its potential risks.

In November 2019, FRA published a focus paper on the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) in the context of law enforcement. In its January 2021 resolution, the European Parliament invited the European Commission to assess the consequences of the FRT systems and consider a moratorium if necessary.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed a regulation governing the use of AI (draft AI Act), including certain use-cases of remote biometric identification systems for law enforcement purposes.

Other international actors, such as the Council of Europe, have called for strict rules, in particular to avoid the significant risks posed by the increasing use of biometric technology. Civil society organisations have equally expressed concerns over the FRT use, including potential abuse of the technology by governments and corporations for biometric mass surveillance.

This project seeks to provide a balanced assessment of the potential law enforcement-related applications of this technology with respect to its fundamental rights impact.


Focusing on selected ‘use-cases’ in law enforcement, the project analyses fundamental rights risks of remote biometric identification. It also explores the safeguards necessary for its potential fundamental rights compliant use. The methodology combines desk research and various forms of fieldwork. The results will provide practical guidance to law enforcement authorities.