French watchdog warns sports club about unlawful use of facial recognition technology

PARIS (Reuters) - France's data privacy watchdog CNIL has warned a sports club about the unlawful use of facial recognition technology to stop people from attending matches and aid the fight against terrorism, it said on Thursday.

The CNIL did not name the club, but a source close to the matter said it was soccer club FC Metz, located in northeastern France, who play in the country's top division Ligue 1.

FC Metz angered supporters' lobby group ANS in January 2020 after they confirmed they were experimenting with facial recognition technology to stop people banned from their stadium attending matches.

They said at the time that the initiative was also aimed at detecting weapons, so helping in the fight against terrorism.

In a formal warning written by CNIL president Marie-Laure Denis, the organisation told Metz the use of such tools was unlawful.

"In the absence of a dedicated legislative text or regulatory provision, the implementation of such a scheme by a sports club to 'fight against terrorism' is unlawful," Denis told Metz.

Under French law, sports clubs may ban people who broke rules during previous games to ensure safe and secure conditions for future matches. They may do so by keeping a list of the names of the banned people and avoiding selling tickets to them.

A spokesman for FC Metz declined to comment.

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, editing by Ed Osmond)

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