The European Union is reportedly considering a temporary ban on the public use of facial recognition technology. The news comes courtesy of a leaked draft of a European Commission white paper, the final version of which is set to be published in February.
If the report proves to be accurate, the proposed legislation would completely bar the use of facial recognition technology for a three to five-year period. The ban would cover major public venues, including sports stadiums, tourist areas, and train stations.
The paper reflects the public’s growing concerns about privacy, though the potential EU action is less sweeping than the blanket bans that have been introduced in U.S. cities like San Francisco and Cambridge. The EU is essentially hoping to give European governments more time to consider the ethical implications of the technology, and to make sure that the rapid pace of innovation does not outstrip the government’s ability to protect its citizens.
Those concerns are particularly salient in the wake of Europe’s GDPR regulations, as well as the increasing ubiquity of facial recognition surveillance systems. Facial recognition tech has already been deployed at soccer stadiums in Belgium and Denmark, and triggered a protest during a recent game in Cardiff City.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has also been investigating the use of facial recognition at a development site near King’s Cross station in London, while the Home Office came under fire for deploying a platform with known racial biases.
The Commission declined to directly comment on the leaked paper, but did issue a statement clarifying that, “Technology has to serve a purpose and the people. Trust and security of EU citizens will therefore be at the centre of the EU’s strategy.”
The EU’s approach makes for a stark contrast with that of China, which has steadily increased its use of facial recognition technology for the past few years.
January 17, 2020 – by Eric Weiss