EU’s decision to allow AI-powered facial recognition will not end well, critics warn

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The European Union is facing criticism aimed at its introduction of new AI rules that allow for facial recognition to be used by authorities in a limited manner. Opponents of these rules say that the capitulations could be the segue needed to bring in a new age of biometric surveillance, which can be incredibly pervasive.

A group of consumer protection and digital rights groups across the globe, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America are proposing that there be a global ban on biometric recognition technologies, which can fuel mass and discriminatory surveillance by governments and corporations.

A concerning trend

170 signatories from 55 countries argue, in an open letter, that the technologies could be used to crush human rights and civil liberties.

The movement shows that organizations, groups, activists, people, and technologists the world over are concerned, according to Daniel Leufer of US digital rights group Access Now, who co-authored the letter.

The use of biometric identification is everywhere these days. At its most basic, it is used to unlock phones and at its most sinister, by governments and companies that want to know what people are thinking or to catch criminals.

The EU’s stance

The letter is, in part, a response to the EU AI bill which restricts the practice without banning it outright. The AI proposals published in June by the bloc, seek to find the middle ground where the privacy rights of citizens are not violated and placating governments that desperately want to use the technologies, for security reasons.

The rules prohibit biometric identification in public places for police uses unless there is a ‘serious crime’, a vague term that doesn’t specify the nature of the crime or who decides if it is serious.

Suffice to say that people are wary of identification tech, without introducing the power of AI to make them more potent.