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European Parliament backs law seeking to ban facial recognition tech

European Parliament backs law seeking to ban facial recognition tech
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
7 Oct, 2021

In a landmark resolution, the European Parliament has voted in favour of a law that seeks to ban the use of facial recognition technology in public places and law enforcement. “Notwithstanding the benefits brought by AI, the fact is that simultaneously AI entails a number of potential risks, such as opaque decision-making, different types of discrimination, intrusion into our private lives, challenges to the protection of personal data, human dignity, and the freedom of expression and information,” the Parliament said in an explanatory statement.

It also said that the “potential risks” of AI are “aggravated” when AI is used in criminal justice and law enforcement, since such systems could affect the “presumption of innocence, the fundamental rights to liberty and security of the individual and to an effective remedy and fair trial”.

The statement also reflects on the use of data for AI, noting that these applications use both personal and non-personal data and the automated decisions they make have “direct effect on individuals”. “These features of AI therefore demand us to pay particular attention in this area to the respect of the basic principles of data protection and privacy,” the statement said.

Further, the Parliament didn’t just rule in favour of banning facial recognition. It also called for a ban on law enforcement agencies from using automated systems for gait analysis, fingerprints, DNA, voice analysis and other biometric and behavioural systems. The resolution was passed with 36 in favour and 26 against, while six members abstained from voting. 

Over the past few years, the EU has led the world in terms of tech regulations, starting with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which were introduced in 2018 and have become a blueprint for privacy laws around the world. The resolution passed by the Parliament yesterday isn’t binding, but is being seen as a strong signal of what regulators may be looking for in upcoming tech regulations, including one specifically targeted at AI.