Declaration: A Moratorium on Facial Recognition Technology for Mass Surveillance

October 2019
Tirana, Albania

We the undersigned call for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology that enables mass surveillance.

We recognize the increasing use of this technology for commercial services, government administration, and policing functions. But the technology has evolved from a collection of niche systems to a powerful integrated network capable of mass surveillance and political control.

Facial recognition is now deployed for human identification, behavioral assessment, and predictive analysis.

Unlike other forms of biometric technology, facial recognition is capable of scrutinizing entire urban areas, capturing the identities of tens or hundreds of thousands of people at any one time.

Facial recognition can amplify identification asymmetry as it tends to be invisible or at best, opaque.

Facial recognition can be deployed in almost every dimension of life, from banking and commerce to transportation and communications.

We acknowledge that some facial recognition techniques enable authentication for the benefit of the user. However facial recognition also enables the development of semi-autonomous processes that minimize the roles of humans in decision making.

We note with alarm recent reports about bias, coercion, and fraud in the collection of facial images and the use of facial recognition techniques. Images are collected and used with forced consent or without consent at all.

We recall that in the 2009 Madrid Declaration, civil society called for a moratorium on the development or implementation of facial recognition, subject to a full and transparent evaluation by independent authorities and through democratic debate.

There is growing awareness of the need for a moratorium. In 2019 the Swedish Data Protection Authority prohibited the use of facial recognition in schools. The state of California prohibited the use facial recognition on police-worn body cameras. Several cities in the United States have banned the use of facial recognition systems, and there is growing protest around the world.


  1. We urge countries to suspend the further deployment of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance;
  2. We urge countries to review all facial recognition systems to determine whether personal data was obtained lawfully and to destroy data that was obtained unlawfully;
  3. We urge countries to undertake research to assess bias, privacy and data protection, risk, and cyber vulnerability, as well as the ethical, legal, and social implications associated with the deployment of facial recognition technologies; and
  4. We urge countries to establish the legal rules, technical standards, and ethical guidelines necessary to safeguard fundamental rights and comply with legal obligations before further deployment of this technology occurs.