The European Union is once again considering a ban on facial recognition. The possibility of a temporary ban surfaced in an early draft of a European Commission white paper in January, but those plans were eventually abandoned in the final draft of the paper.
Now, the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee is calling for a ban on the police use of facial recognition. The committee has also backed requests to end the use of facial recognition in public areas, while the European Data Protection Supervisor has taken things a step further and asked for a public ban on software that captures a number of different biometric modalities, including gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, and behavioral biometrics.
The bans would give legislators more time to examine the potential ramifications of the technology, and give them more time to craft laws that protect the people’s civil rights.
“Legislation is never perfect, but this is the right step in the right direction,” said socialist MEP Tudor Ciuhodaru. “The current state-of-play of these technologies, and the significant impacts on fundamental rights, call for an in-depth and open societal debate to consider the justification for their deployment.”
The EU’s decision to once again consider the ban reflects the feedback it received to its initial white paper, and the ways in which the surveillance debate has evolved in the months since. Legislators warned that many police departments have not been transparent about their use of facial recognition tech, and that many programs may violate the EU’s existing privacy laws.
“Our legislation is not effective, we need to hold law enforcement accountable,” said liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld. “This [technology] is already used by police forces even though national and European supervisors consider that there is a possible breach in data-protection rules.”
in ‘t Veld was particularly concerned about Clearview AI, which has repeatedly run afoul of privacy advocates (and privacy regulations) since its activities first came to light earlier in the year. Meanwhile, major companies like IBM and Microsoft have also stopped selling facial recognition to law enforcement agencies in response to the ongoing anti-police brutality protests in the US.
Source: EU Observer
July 3, 2020 – by Eric Weiss