European Parliament wants to ban facial recognition in public spaces

The European Parliament wants a total ban on facial recognition in public spaces. A majority of parliamentarians have voted in favor of a resolution advising that artificial intelligence surveillance technology should be banned in public.

MEPs voted on the resolutions proposed in a report by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. In recent years, the committee has conducted research into the use of biometric detection tools in European police forces. The report makes several dozen recommendations for protecting European citizens against such investigative tools. There are also recommendations against the use of artificial intelligence to, for example, solve crimes, but also, for example, to counter ‘social credit scores’. The resolution was adopted by 377 votes. 248 MPs voted against the proposal. With the vote, the resolutions go to the European Commission.

In the resolution, parliamentarians warn that identification systems that identify people based on artificial intelligence are more likely to make mistakes in terms of ethnicities or sexual preferences. That is ‘extra problematic in the context of investigation and convictions’. This specifically concerns biometric detection and in particular facial recognition technologies. The parliamentarians argue that citizens should only be followed if they are suspected of a crime. In addition to databases of, for example, police and intelligence services, the EP also wants to ban private companies such as the controversial Clearview AI from creating databases with data on European citizens.

Parliament called on the European Commission to ‘implement through legal and non-legal means a ban on any processing of biometric data, including facial recognition, for investigative purposes leading to mass surveillance in public spaces’. This would mean that no more public cameras with facial recognition may be used anywhere in the European Union. Other rules that parliamentarians believe should be implemented are that there must always be human supervision of algorithmic decision-making and that public authorities must use open source software to become more transparent.

With the resolution, parliament also wants to act against the iBorderCtrl project. This is a research project with European funding that examines how border security can be digitized. The project has received a lot of criticism in the past, especially from privacy advocates. They believe that the proposals infringe too much on the rights of travelers. The resolution specifically calls for the investigation to be stopped.