Maltese citizens are the most willing out of all EU member states to share facial images for private companies’ facial recognition technology.
In a survey on data protection and privacy by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, 33% of Maltese respondents said they were willing to share their facial images with private companies, the highest rate out of all EU countries.
Meanwhile, half said they would give their personal images to governmental entities for identification purposes, the second-highest rate behind Cyprus.
Meanwhile, more than half Maltese respondents (59%) said they were proficient in privacy and location (76%) settings on smartphones whilst more than three quarters (73%) claimed to be aware of general data protection regulation (GDPR), the highest among the other 26 countries in the European bloc.
Less than a quarter (21%) of respondents from Malta said they read online terms and conditions but it seems those that do understand them extremely well (82%), putting Malta near the top of the table for literacy in reading the fine lines of using online apps and websites.
Malta’s willingness to share identification data is indicative of Malta’s high usage of social media, as seen in an EU Commission survey last year. The 2019 Eurobarometer survey found that 79% of locals use social media every day.
COVID-19 Tracing Apps – necessary tools or breaches of data protection?
The Eurobarometer survey, whilst conducted last year, is significant in light of moves in Europe in favour of COVID-19 tracing apps to combat the virus’ spread.
The EU Commission gave the green light for countries to roll out their own phone applications, which would help national authorities track and isolate those in contact with active cases faster and more efficiently. France and Germany have already launched their own apps, whilst other countries like Spain, Italy and the UK are set to release their own in the near future.
Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “As we approach the travel season, it is important to ensure that Europeans can use the app from their own country wherever they are travelling in the EU. Contact tracing apps can be useful to limit the spread of coronavirus, especially as part of national strategies to lift confinement measures.”
However, GDPR restricts how extensively EU countries can surveil citizens.
Maltese MP Ivan Bartolo had proposed that Malta develop its own COVID-19 app, including an alert system that could notify police if those in mandatory quarantine leave their homes.
Since then, Minister of Home Affairs Byron Camillieri said Malta has no immediate plans to implement ‘Big Brother’ like apps to enforce quarantine but could well do so in the future if people don’t cooperate with the law.
You can read the full results of the survey here.