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23 Apr, 2021 14:35

EU data protection watchdog says facial recognition should be banned due to ‘deep intrusion’ into people’s private lives

EU data protection watchdog says facial recognition should be banned due to ‘deep intrusion’ into people’s private lives

Facial recognition should be banned from Europe’s public spaces, the EU’s independent data protection authority has said, just days after the bloc’s executive branch proposed a new bill allowing the partial use of the technology.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said on Friday it welcomes the new legislation governing artificial intelligence, but said a ban on the use of remote biometric identification in public is “necessary.”

“A stricter approach is necessary given that remote biometric identification, where AI (artificial intelligence) may contribute to unprecedented developments, presents extremely high risks of deep and non-democratic intrusion into individuals’ private lives,” it said in a statement.

“The EDPS will focus in particular on setting precise boundaries for those tools and systems which may present risks for the fundamental rights to data protection and privacy.”

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The watchdog said it “regrets” to see that the European Commission has not addressed its earlier calls to outlaw biometric identification systems, including facial recognition, from public spaces.

The EDPS will analyze the proposals for an Artificial Intelligence Act put forward by the Commission on Wednesday.

The draft rules, which still need to be agreed upon by member states and the European Parliament, call for AI systems that are classified as “high-risk” to be strictly limited before they are rolled out.

Some systems would be completely banned, including AI that manipulates human behavior – such as children’s toys encouraging dangerous activities – and systems allowing governments to give citizens ‘social scores’.

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The Commission states that all remote biometric identification systems are deemed “high-risk,” although narrow exceptions would be made for their use in finding missing children or preventing terrorist attacks.

The proposals have drawn criticism from some campaigners, including European Digital Rights, a collective of nongovernmental organizations.

Sarah Chander, a senior AI adviser for the group, said the draft law “does not prohibit the full extent of unacceptable uses of AI,” leaving a “worrying gap for discriminatory and surveillance technologies used by governments and companies.”

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