Public event

The human rights case against facial recognition

In an increasing number of countries, the face of anyone who enters a public space is automatically captured, scanned and processed by an algorithm. Combined with information from communications surveillance, facial recognition technology can give a complete picture of our entire everyday life. As it is used primarily against marginalised populations and has higher error rates for Black and Brown people as well as women and non-binary people, it can amplify discrimination. The use of facial recognition technology leads to chilling effects on the enjoyment of human rights: It can deter people from participating in protests or from visiting sensitive places. The COVID-19 pandemic fueled the rise of the technology, with state authorities and companies pairing it with thermal imaging.

This Fundamental Rights in Practice event discusses the challenges to the protection of fundamental rights presented by the use of facial recognition technology and by the lack of regulation on its development, sale and deployment.

Amnesty International will present its global campaign "#BanTheScan" calling for a ban of FRT for the purpose of mass surveillance. Markus N. Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany and Chair of the Amnesty Steering Group on Human Rights in the Digital Age, will discuss the human rights impact of FRT as well as regulation and governance approaches. Matt Mahmoudi, researcher and adviser on artificial intelligence and human rights at Amnesty International will presents Amnesty’s #BanThe Scan project, which provides activists with the resources to conquer the technology's use in their home town, and the "Amnesty Decoders" - a worldwide network of digital activists geolocating facial recognition-capable surveillance devices. Cathryn Costello, Professor of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School and Co-Director of its Centre for Fundamental Rights will act as a commentator. The event will be moderated by Anita Gohdes, Hertie School's Professor of International and Cyber Security.


Markus N. Beeko is the Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany. He is also the Chair of Amnesty’s international steering group on "Human Rights in the Digital Age". He was appointed Secretary General of the German section in 2016. He has been active in leadership positions for Amnesty in Germany and the International Secretariat in London since 2004. Markus holds a MBA of the University of Cologne, where he studied business administration and economics.

Cathryn Costello is Professor of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School and Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights. Costello is also part-time Professor II at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights at the University of Oslo, and is on leave from her previous post as Professor of Refugee and Migration Law at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

Matt Mahmoudi is Researcher on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights at Amnesty International, where he leads the effort to ban facial recognition technologies. He was awarded the inaugural Jo Cox PhD Studentship at the University of Cambridge, where he spent the last three years researching smart cities as new frontiers for migrant violence and digital border control, and program-led He has also held visiting scholarships at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University, and here at the Hertie School. Matt is co-author on the recently published OUP book, Digital Witness, edited by Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig, and Daragh Murray. 


Anita Gohdes is Professor of International and Cyber Security at the Hertie School. Her research focuses on contentious politics in the cyber realm, with a current emphasis on large-scale quantitative analyses of state behaviour. Previously, she was Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Zurich, and postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center International Security Program.

This event is part of the Fundamental Rights in Practice event series hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights in collaboration with the Centre for International Security

Prior registration is required. Registered attendees will receive the dial-in details via e-mail prior to the event.

To register please visit the event page on Eventbrite.