European Union Calls For Five Year Strict Ban On Facial Recognition Technology

With the enormous exposure to the internet and technology, privacy has become a major concern. Once you are on the internet, you start to get traced whether its for customer profiling or for showing targeted ads.

Now because of technologies like facial recognization especially its application in public areas, privacy has become a more sensitive issue, you may turn off your internet but you can’t easily leave your country.

According to a May 2018 report, alone FBI has access to 412 million facial images for searches.

In order to address this issue, as per a leaked white paper draft of the European Commission (an institution of the European Union) on Artificial Intelligence obtained by Euractiv, the European Union is considering a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition technology with exceptions for research and security projects.

The temporary ban of facial recognition technology will be considered in public places such as train stations, sports stadiums, and shopping centers over fears about the creeping surveillance of European citizens.

According to the draft, the prohibition of facial recognition technology will last for between 3 and 5 years. In this timestamp, regulators need to figure out how to prevent facial recognition from being abused by both governments and businesses and estimate the impacts of it and possible risk management measures.

The paper stated, “the use of facial recognition technology by private or public actors in public spaces would be prohibited for a definite period (eg 3 to 5 years) during which a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed”.

The white paper also features five regulatory options for AI across the EU which include voluntary labeling, sectorial requirements for public administration and facial recognition, mandatory risk-based requirements for high-risk applications, safety and liability, and governance.

The Commission says its preference for regulating AI are regulatory options 3 combined with 4 and 5,  i.e mandatory risk-based requirements on developers that could result in some mandatory criteria, combined with relevant tweaks to existing product safety & liability legislation, & an overarching governance framework.

Under the proposal, a new regulatory framework for artificial intelligence could include a time-limited ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces.

Facial recognition has a high potential for misuse which is why the European Commission’s plan to impose a temporary ban while it weighs all the options makes a great deal of sense.

The draft document points to the right under the general data protection regulation for EU citizens not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling.

As per a spokesman: “To maximize the benefits and address the challenges of artificial intelligence, Europe has to act as one and will define its own way, a human way. Technology has to serve a purpose and the people. Trust and security of EU citizens will, therefore, be at the center of the EU’s strategy.”

“Data is the indispensable raw ingredient of AI. We thus have to unlock, exploit and make flow data generated and owned in Europe, to create wealth for our societies and opportunities for our businesses. Our industry is a world leader in most innovative sectors. Europe has everything it needs to be successful.”

The final version of the paper is due to be published by the end of February as part of a wider overhaul of the regulation of artificial intelligence. However, the report adds that if the plans are implemented, several current AI projects proposed by European Union countries could be thrown off course.

These include the German government is planning to roll out facial recognition technology in 134 railway stations and 14 airports after a successful trial in Berlin.

France is set to become the first EU country to allow its citizens to access secure government websites by such software. In July, the French parliament recommended a new regulatory framework to allow experimentation.

The proposals come amid calls from politicians and campaigners in the UK to stop the police using live facial recognition for public surveillance. Most recently the Kings Cross estate found itself at the center of controversy when it was revealed its owners were using facial recognition without telling the public.

Campaigners claim the current technology is inaccurate, intrusive and infringes on an individual’s right to privacy. A recent study suggested facial recognition algorithms are far less accurate at identifying black and Asian faces compared with white faces.

“This would safeguard the rights of individuals, in particular against any possible abuse of the technology,” the Commission writes, adding that: “It would be necessary to foresee some exceptions, notably for activities in the context of research and development and for security purposes.”

“The situation is extremely unclear in the area of law enforcement, and particularly the use of public-private partnerships in law enforcement.”

“I would argue the GDPR in practice forbids facial recognition by private companies in a surveillance context without member states actively legislating an exemption into the law using their powers to derogate. ”

“However, the merchants of doubt at facial recognition firms wish to sow heavy uncertainty into that area of law to legitimize their businesses,” said Dr. Michael Veale, a lecturer in digital rights at UCL.

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