Is Switzerland to break away from the EU’s stance on mass surveillance?

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At the end of May, the Swiss government abandoned its framework agreement with the EU, after negotiating for seven years. Bilateral relations with Brussels are frayed and at an all-time low. A few weeks after that (on June 13), the Swiss people voted in favour of the Federal Act on Combating Terrorism.

That vote gives the police greater powers to intervene if they are doing it for preventive reasons. The problematic relations with the EU come when the bloc is trying to combat the use of mass surveillance technology by private companies and police forces.

A way forward for AI and surveillance

At the moment, the European Commission is working on the world’s first legislation for the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). The proposal currently being discussed addresses the risks presented, as well as defines the obligations regarding specific uses.

Brussels is focusing on biometric identification systems (including facial recognition), which are being used in public spaces, usually without the knowledge of the public, for surveillance, data collection and aggregation, and law enforcement.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International launched a campaign, against the use of these technologies, by state agencies and private sectors.

Weaponization of AI

The NGO said that facial recognition risks becoming a weapon that could be used by law enforcement and totalitarian governments to target marginalized communities or perceived enemies.

Amnesty was also vocal about the new Swiss law on police measures meant to combat terrorism, calling it dangerously vague and a threat to the future.

Since the law promotes more surveillance, it could indirectly lead to increased use of the technologies that Brussels wants to be canned for now, as well as play into the hands of terrorism rhetoric.