EU May Prohibit Public Face Recognition

♦ EU may prohibit biometric mass surveillance, including facial recognition via real time monitoring or applied to investigations, through a new AI Act.

The possible move comes after the European Digital Rights (EDRi) and 52 other organizations wrote to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for a ban of remote biometric identification systems like facial recognition in public spaces.

The open letter describes biometric identification technology as “one of the greatest threats to fundamental rights and democracy that we have ever seen,” and said it “destroys the possibility of anonymity in public.”

EDRi and the other organizations behind the open letter said a wider legal framework is needed at a European level to prevent biometric surveillance. They have called for amendments to Article 5(1)(d) of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act to extend the scope of the prohibition to cover all private as well as public actors.

They’ve also called for all uses of RBI – real time or forensic – in publicly-accessible spaces to be included in the prohibition, and for the exceptions to the prohibition to be deleted.

This is a big deal and has to be taken seriously, given the more or less global application of GDPR cyber security standards, which indicate the EU’s collective impact on world standards.

“The EU aims to create an ‘ecosystem of trust and excellence’ for AI and to be the world leader in trustworthy AI,” said the letter.

“Accomplishing these aims will mean putting a stop to applications of AI that undermine trust, violate our rights, and turn our public spaces into surveillance nightmares. We can promote AI that really serves people while stamping out the most dangerous applications of this powerful technology.”

Co-signing the open letter are international organizations and groups from various countries around Europe, as well as other countries, and regional advocates.

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