EU countries agreed on draft artificial intelligence (AI) regulations ahead of negotiations with EU parliamentarians to iron out the kinks. However, according to the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) and opposing lawmakers, the countries failed to address facial recognition concerns.

Last year, the European Commission suggested AI standards to keep up with China and the United States in the regulation of a technology increasingly used in smartphones, computers, self-driving vehicles, online shopping, advertising and manufacturing.

Before being adopted, the proposed regulations must be negotiated with EU countries and parliamentarians. EU countries recently agreed on a common position, but the parliament has yet to seal the deal.

The stance

According to a statement from the European Union Council, the countries decided to exclude national security, defence and military objectives from the proposed AI restrictions.

They decided to prohibit AI from being used for social ranking, which assesses residents based on behavioural data. Furthermore, the countries want to bar law enforcement from employing biometric identification in public settings unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Watered down

However, according to the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), many critical problems, such as face recognition by businesses in public places, still need to be addressed. The organization stated that the clauses categorizing systems as high-risk were whittled down. BEUC Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl said consumers are concerned about the risks of AI, such as its potential to increase discrimination.

Parliamentarian Patrick Breyer of the German Pirate Party raised concerns about facial recognition technology. “We must stand up against biometric mass surveillance in our public spaces because these technologies wrongfully report large numbers of innocent citizens, systematically discriminate against under-represented groups, and have a chilling effect on a free and diverse society”, he said.

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