Facial recognition and other means of identification via unique body characteristics (such as voice recognition) should be banned in public places. A line should also be drawn from systems that recognize emotions or that classify people on the basis of, for example, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. All European regulators are calling for this on Monday, according to the Authority for Personal Data. The reason is a European legislative proposal on artificial intelligence. It states that governments may use these kinds of techniques to combat crime, for example.
The risks of facial recognition and similar techniques are too great to be allowed in public spaces, write the EDPB (European Data Protection Board) and EDPS (European Data Protection Supervisor) in an opinion to the European Commission. “A camera with facial recognition not only sees what you are doing, but it also identifies you immediately. He immediately sees who you are,” said Aleid Wolfsen, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority and vice-chairman of the EDPB.
The regulators fear, among other things, a ‘surveillance society’, where everyone is recognized and followed through systems all day long. “The administrator of those systems can follow me automatically: he can see exactly when I leave the house, where I do my shopping, when I have an appointment with the doctor, which friends I visit and where I go out to eat,” said Mr. Wolfsen, who wonders whether the advantages of such a system outweigh the disadvantages. “We live in a free, open society. That is a great asset, we must protect it.”
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‘Still a lot unclear’
The European Commission’s bill states that artificial intelligence systems must be registered and certified as mandatory. This makes it possible to check whether the privacy law is being complied with. However, these conditions have not yet reassured European regulators. According to the authorities, the bill still contains many uncertainties, including who should enforce the rules and what happens to data that is transferred to countries outside the EU.
The EDPB and the EDPS wrote the opinion at the request of the European Commission. The EU member states still have to consider the bill, as does the European Parliament.