MEPs call Member States to ban facial recognition and for safeguards in AI use by police and judicial authorities

Three points of the resolution passed with wide majority
Humans should supervise AI systems and algorithms should be open.
Ban private facial recognition databases, behavioural policing and citizen scoring.
Automated recognition should not be used for border control or in public spaces

Brussels 6 Oct. 2021 – The increasingly widespread use of Artificial Intelligence by police, judicial and local authorities is highly concerning and already amounting to mass surveillance. We are surrounded by CCTV and many of these use AI facial recognition technology.

The use of facial recognition tools by the police at EU Member States borders and CCTV in public spaces to profile and control the wide population, have been addressed by the EU Parliament with a resolution voted Wednesday (October 6th 2021) and adopted by 377 in favour, 248 against and 62 abstentions.

Though a resolution is not legally binding, it is one of the acts aimed at directing governments, it still has a procedural value states should attain to in legislation as AI use is already impacting our civil liberty, shared values and basic human rights.

MEPs called for a “permanent ban on the automated recognition of people in public spaces”, asked “strong safeguards in the use of AI by the police and transparency of algorithms to combat discrimination”.

Biases are there and leading to racial, gender, national/political discriminations disguised as border checks, immigration control and safety of our public spaces. “It’s not a question of whether the AI systems have the potential to result in racially biased and discriminatory outcomes. We actually know for sure that this is the case”, said Petar Vitanov , the S&D group Bulgarian MEP who put forward the motion for the LIBE committee

“Fundamental rights are unconditional. – explains Vitanov – For the first time ever, we are calling for a moratorium on the deployment of facial recognition systems for law enforcement purposes, as the technology has proven to be ineffective and often leads to discriminatory results. We are clearly opposed to predictive policing based on the use of AI as well as any processing of biometric data that leads to mass surveillance. This is a huge win for all European citizens”.

Reuters reports that the EU two privacy agencies, European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), warned of the extremely high risks posed by remote biometric identification of individuals in public areas.

“The EDPB and the EDPS call for a general ban on any use of AI for automated recognition of human features in publicly accessible spaces, such as recognition of faces, gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes and other biometric or behavioural signals,” the two watchdogs said in a joint opinion.

The risks posed by AI is not just related to facial recognition systems, but also to DNA profiling, predictive crime mapping, mobile phone data extraction, advanced case-law search engines, online dispute resolution, and machine learning for the administration of justice.

EU LIBE Committee states that whereas in those Member States where some information was available on the use of facial recognition technologies, data protection authorities found that the use of these technologies did not comply with data protection law and lacked a legal basis for their deployment.

Here is how the EU explains that its data protection rules prohibit in principle the processing of biometric data for the purpose of purely identifying a natural person, this will be a violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, except in case under specific conditions.

Specifically, under the GDPR, such processing of biometric data can only take place on a limited number of grounds, the main one being for reasons of substantial public interest. In that case, the processing must take place on the basis of EU or national law, subject to the requirements of proportionality, respect for the essence of the right to data protection and appropriate safeguards. Under the Law Enforcement Directive, there must be a strict necessity for such processing, in principle an authorisation by EU or national law as well as appropriate safeguards. As any processing of biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person would relate to an exception to a prohibition laid down in EU law, it would be subject to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.