The European Union is walking back from a temporary ban on the public use of facial recognition, according to a Reuters report. The possibility of a ban was previously raised in a draft of a European Commission white paper that was leaked to the press earlier this month.
The final draft of that paper is set to be published in February, with the latest reports indicating that it will run without the temporary ban. The ban could have lasted for a period of up to five years, giving EU legislators more time to study facial recognition and craft regulations to better ensure the privacy of its citizens.
The European Commission is still collecting feedback, so there is a chance that the temporary ban could make its way back into the report before the Commission makes a presentation on February 19. The impetus for the decision to drop the ban remains unclear.
Either way, the report speaks to the contentious nature of the debate surrounding facial recognition. Privacy advocates have repeatedly raised concerns about the potential threat to civil liberties, leading to bans in San Francisco and other American cities.
At the same time, law enforcement organizations have displayed considerable enthusiasm for the technology. The London police recently announced that they would move forward with plans to deploy more cameras throughout the city. In the meantime, a bombshell New York Times report detailed the activities of Clearview AI, a tech startup that has operated free of any oversight while licensing its massive facial recognition database to hundreds of law enforcement agencies.
The European Union has already voted to create a searchable biometric database that would link personal information like passport number and date of birth to a person’s face and fingerprint biometrics. The Common Identity Repository will contain records on more than 350 million people.
January 31, 2020 – by Eric Weiss