The EU Parliament passed a resolution in favour of a complete ban on mass surveillance of citizens and predictive policing on October 7, a press release on their website announced. The Parliament demanded such safeguards to combat discrimination and ensure citizens’ right to privacy, the announcement mentioned.
For the first time ever, we are calling for a moratorium on the deployment of facial recognition systems for law enforcement purposes, as the technology has proven to be ineffective and often leads to discriminatory results. – Peter Vitanov, Member of Parliament, European Union
In the past few months, a few regulators have been waking up to the dangers of AI-based mass surveillance. Last month, the UN Human Rights Commission asked for a moratorium on biometric recognition in public spaces. Such resolutions could nudge more jurisdictions to take a proactive approach in regulating biometric surveillance.
What did the European Parliament pass in its resolution?
The European Union is currently working on the Artificial Intelligence Act, and this resolution is a strong indicator of how the act will regulate AI. Here are key measures highlighted by the EU Parliament:
- Ban on Automated Public Surveillance: The EU Parliament has asked for a permanent ban on automated recognition of individuals and predictive policing according to behaviour. If citizens are suspected of a crime, however, they can be monitored according to the resolution.
- Moratorium on face recognition: The resolution also calls for law enforcement agencies to halt the deployment of facial recognition software until technical standards comply with fundamental rights.
- Transparent algorithms: AI-based identification systems tend to misidentify minority groups and LGBTQI people, among others. To address concerns around discrimination, the resolution states that algorithms should be transparent, traceable, and sufficiently documented.
- Forbid private facial recognition databases: Notably, the EU Parliament has also suggested the banning of private face recognition databases. It mentions the example of Clearview AI system and suggests that such private databases should be forbidden.
The resolution, now adopted by the European Parliament, calls on executive branches of the EU to formulate guidelines in order to enforce these legislations.
Resolution passed after UN highlighted concerns with biometric recognition
In a report released last month, the UN had called for a moratorium on the use of biometric recognition in public spaces, arguing that it interferes with the international human rights to privacy, freedom of movement and expression.
States should wait to deploy biometric recognition in public spaces until they demonstrate that 1) they are compliant with privacy and data protection standards and 2) accuracy and bias issues have been dealt with, the report from the UN High Commission for Human Rights recommended.
Concerns around AI-based inference were also highlighted at PrivacyNama 2021, a global conference on privacy regulations held by MediaNama on October 6 and 7. Dr. Mark Andrejevic, a professor at Monash University who researches surveillance and data mining, said:
You may have seen these examples of facial recognition, technology being used, not just to identify individuals, but to make inferences about their emotional states or intentional states, even inherent tendencies. Some folks have claimed to be able to use facial recognition to identify sexual orientation or criminal tendencies. This kind of inferential use, which seems quite far-fetched and an attempt to resuscitate long-debunked ways of thinking about how our bodies work, is being explored and built into these systems. And much of the legislation that I’ve seen has really focused on identificatory uses. I think it’s going to be very important to think about these inferential uses and how they can be used for new forms of social sorting and discrimination. (emphasis added)
What’s the state of biometric mass surveillance in India?
India is rapidly deploying facial recognition for law enforcement purposes. Multiple states in India have already started acquiring equipment and implementing remote biometric recognition:
- Uttar Pradesh: The UP government is planning to install 700 AI-based CCTV cameras and 100 facial recognition cameras in Lucknow to detect suspicious activity, an exclusive report by MediaNama revealed.
- Meghalaya: The Meghalaya government released an app in August that uses facial recognition to verify whether pensioners are alive to receive their next installments.
- Delhi: The Delhi Police had used its facial recognition system to trace 1,100 people behind the Delhi riots in February, Union Home Minister Amit Shah informed the Lok Sabha in March 2020.
Central government authorities in India are using or planning to use facial recognition across the country for specific purposes:
- Examination Halls: The National Testing Agency (NTA) has proposed the installation of CCTV cameras in 4,000 examination centres coupled with compulsory biometric verification such as iris and fingerprint scans as well as facial scans.
- Railway Stations: Indian railways had decided to install facial recognition-equipped CCTV cameras in 983 railway stations across the country. The technology has been implemented in 310 stations till now, the IT minister informed Parliament in August this year.
- Why A UN Body Is Raising The Alarm On Biometric Recognition Tech In Public Spaces
- Lucknow Safe City Project: Uttar Pradesh To Deploy Facial Recognition, ‘Label’ Faces Of Suspects
- The Use Of Facial Recognition Technology For Policing In Delhi: An Empirical Study Of Potential Religion-Based Discrimination
- Meghalaya Govt Releases App To Verify Pensioners Via Facial Recognition, Raises Privacy Concerns
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