European Parliament votes to ban mass biometric surveillance

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The European Parliament adopted a resolution on October 7 in favor of a total ban on mass surveillance of citizens and predictive policing, a press release published on its website said. Parliament has demanded such guarantees to fight discrimination and guarantee citizens’ right to privacy, the announcement said.

For the first time, we are calling for a moratorium on the deployment of facial recognition systems for law enforcement purposes, as the technology has proven ineffective and often leads to discriminatory results. – Peter Vitanov, MP, European Union

In recent months, a few regulators have come to realize the dangers of AI-based mass surveillance. Last month, the UN Commission on Human Rights called for a moratorium on biometric recognition in public spaces. Such resolutions could prompt more jurisdictions to take a proactive approach in regulating biometric surveillance.

What did the European Parliament vote for in its resolution?

The European Union is currently working on the law on artificial intelligence, and this resolution is a strong indicator of how the law will regulate AI. Here are the key measures highlighted by the European Parliament:

  • Prohibition of automated public surveillance: The European Parliament has called for a permanent ban on automated recognition of individuals and behavioral predictive policing. However, if citizens are suspected of a crime, they can be monitored in accordance with the resolution.
  • Moratorium on facial recognition: The resolution also calls on law enforcement to stop 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 about discrimination, the resolution states that algorithms must be transparent, traceable and sufficiently documented.
  • Ban private facial recognition databases: In particular, the European Parliament suggested banning private facial recognition databases. He cites the example of the Clearview AI system and suggests that such private databases be banned.

The resolution, now adopted by the European Parliament, calls on the executive branches of the EU to formulate guidelines to enforce these laws.

Resolution adopted after UN raised concerns over biometric recognition

In a report released last month, the UN called for a moratorium on the use of biometric recognition in public spaces, arguing that it interferes with 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 comply with privacy and data protection standards and 2) issues of accuracy and bias have occurred. been resolved, recommended the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Concerns about AI-based inference were also highlighted at PrivacyNama 2021, a global conference on privacy regulations hosted by MediaNama on October 6-7. Dr Mark Andrejevic, a professor at Monash University who studies surveillance and data mining, said:

You may have seen these examples of facial recognition, the technology used, not only to identify individuals, but to make inferences about their emotional or intentional states, or even inherent tendencies. Some people have claimed that they can use facial recognition to identify sexual orientation or criminal tendencies. This type of inferential use, which seems quite far-fetched and an attempt to resurrect long-debunked ways of thinking about how our bodies work, is explored and integrated into these systems. And a lot of the legislation I’ve seen really focuses on identifying 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 is the state of mass biometric surveillance in India?

India is rapidly deploying facial recognition for law enforcement purposes. Several Indian states have already started acquiring equipment and implementing remote biometric recognition:

  • Uttar Pradesh: The UP government plans to install 700 AI-based CCTV cameras and 100 facial recognition cameras in Lucknow to detect suspicious activity, an exclusive MediaNama report has revealed.
  • Meghalaya: The Meghalaya government released an app in August that uses facial recognition to check if retirees are alive to receive their next installments.
  • Delhi: Delhi police had used their facial recognition system to track down 1,100 people behind riots in Delhi in February, Union Home Secretary Amit Shah told Lok Sabha in March 2020.

India’s central government authorities use or plan to use facial recognition nationwide for specific purposes:

  • Examination rooms: The National Testing Agency (NTA) has proposed the installation of CCTV cameras in 4,000 examination centers coupled with mandatory biometric verification such as iris and fingerprint scans as well as facial scans.
  • Railway stations: Indian Railways had decided to install CCTV cameras equipped with facial recognition in 983 stations across the country. The technology has been implemented in 310 stations so far, the Minister of Informatics informed in August of this year.

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