The government and opposition in the Bundestag have spoken out in favor of the strict regulation of a Polish start-up company that operates a search engine for faces on the Internet. Research by the netzpolitik.org portal attests that the project has a high potential for abuse: "PimEyes is a comprehensive attack on anonymity and may be illegal," the article says. Accordingly, the free search engine massively analyzes faces on the Internet for individual characteristics and stores the biometric data. Anyone with photos on the Internet could already be part of the database, which already has 900 million faces.
Tankred Schipanski, the Union's digital policy spokesman in the Bundestag, described the offer as "untenable". "If (regulation) at the EU level should not succeed in a timely manner, we have to act here as national legislators," he said to netzpolitik.org. Jens Zimmermann, digital policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, called for a thorough examination of whether the existing legal regulations offer sufficient protection. "Do we really want to live in a society where anonymity in fact is no longer possible in public space?"
The left-wing spokeswoman for network politics in the Bundestag, Anke Domscheit-Berg, rated PimEyes as "highly dangerous". Domscheit-Berg said that women who want to move anonymously in public spaces are more easily identified and exposed to harassment. She contacted the Federal Data Protection Officer Ulrich Kelber. "If this app does not have a legal basis as prescribed by the GDPR, appropriate sanctions must be imposed and the spread of the app must be prevented as soon as possible."
The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) states that the processing of biometric data to uniquely identify a natural person is prohibited. PimEyes argues that the search engine is not about identifying a person. Users should upload their own face there alone and could see where pictures of them appear on the net.
The case commemorates the controversial US company Clearview AI, which compiled around three billion images of people from the Internet to develop a comprehensive database for facial recognition. For the database, publicly available images were sucked into platforms such as Facebook and YouTube or the US payment service Venmo, as the New York Times reported. A number of private law suits are now pending against Clearview AI. Law enforcement agencies in Vermont are investigating the company.