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Major metro areas are pushing for more control over how facial recognition technology will be used.

Europe’s cities are banding together to try and help shape pending EU legislation on Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition. As reported by POLITICO this week, Europe’s cities “have the most to gain and plenty to lose” from the bill.

The European Union’s bill on artificial intelligence places restrictions on the use of facial recognition technologies in public places for law enforcement.

However, the bill has an exemption for fighting “serious crime.” This exemption, the cities believe, could be a loophole that surveillance states and nosy companies could exploit.

“We want an outright ban on mass biometric surveillance systems,” said Barcelona’s Deputy Mayor Laia Bonet in an interview. This is necessary, she says, to ebsure that these systems “guarantee fundamental human rights.”

Cities demand a seat at the EU legislative table

Barcelona, along with London, Amsterdam and New York, are launching an initiative called the Urban AI Observatory. The project aims to find a common voice between cities and how they use artificial intelligence systems.

The cities are pushing policymakers to make sure companies rolling out AI systems meet Europe’s ethical standards. They want independent assessments, but the Commission’s proposal relies on companies’ self-assessments.

The cities want a seat on the proposed European Artificial Intelligence Board, which will supervise the implementation of the law.

Cities “have first-hand experience on AI uses in urban areas,” Barcelona’s Bonet argued. “And we can provide the experience to to be sure that we make the best decisions on this board.”

Cities aren’t technology skeptics — far from it. They have the most to gain from the integration of AI into public services like health and transportation.

Laia Bonet explained the reasonable desire of the cities pushing Brussels on t his issue. “We want to define a shared understanding of what it entails to roll out an AI system to improve municipal services,” she said.

“I think it can be a very useful tool … if we accelerate the use of AI systems to improve our municipal services, this guarantees it’s at least compatible with the respect of fundamental rights,” she added.