EU survey finds half of the Maltese ready to share facial data

People walk past a poster simulating facial recognition software at the Security China 2018 exhibition on public safety and security in Beijing, China October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter - RC1318930250

While the Maltese rank among the top scorers in their willingness to share facial images for identity recognition by authorities, they are also on the lower end of the spectrum in their awareness of Data Protection authorities. This information emanates from a report compiled by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) entitled  ‘Your rights matter: Data protection and privacy, Fundamental Rights Survey’. In the case of Malta, a sample of 1,004 was taken on the basis of random probability and the interviews were conducted face to face.

In an interview conducted in 2018, Digital expert Dr Gege Gatt had said that “We need to create a public debate to see what level of surveillance is considered as acceptable, then we need to see best practices in Europe and finally match these up to produce a robust legal and ethical framework to achieve the desired ends”. He added that “The right to privacy is sacrosanct and the right to internet access and rights emanating from that should be constitutionally protected”.

A trusting Nation?

According to the data, compiled over an EU-wide sample of 35,000 persons, 50% of the Maltese are comfortable sharing their data for facial recognition purposes with the government. The percentage then drops to 33% for similar sharing with private companies. This inclination to share with government authorities is second only to the 65% mark registered by Cyprus and well above the EU average of 17%. Malta also registered the highest inclination to share facial recognition data with private companies. In what could be interpreted as a very trusting mode, 33% of the Maltese are inclined to share such data with private companies, almost three times as much as its nearest ‘competitor’ in this angle, Denmark which registered 13%. The EU average for sharing facial recognition data with private companies is 6%.

Caught unawares?

On the other hand, two out of three Maltese are aware that Malta has a Data Protection Authority. This is way below the average for the EU which hits the 71% mark and far behind the highest scorer, the Czech Republic which registered a 90% awareness. The least awareness is registered by Belgium at 44%. One-fourth of the Maltese do not read the terms and conditions when using online services scoring better than the EU average of 33%.