European Parliament calls for ban on mass surveillance

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The Parliament’s move comes in response to appeals from numerous groups.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called for a ban on biometric mass surveillance technologies. The ban would specifically forbid the use of facial recognition systems.

This week the parliament discussed a report on the use of artificial intelligence in criminal law. A group of 40 MEPs is now citing the threat these technologies present to human rights.

The group has called on the European Commission to strengthen an incoming legislative proposal on artificial intelligence. They want the law to ban facial recognition and other forms of biometric surveillance in public places.

They have also urged EU lawmakers to outlaw automated recognition of people’s sensitive characteristics. These include gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, health status and disability. They warn that such AI-powered practices pose too great a rights risk and can fuel discrimination.

The MEPs expressed their demands in a letter to the European Commission which they’ve also made public. “Biometric mass surveillance technology in publicly accessible spaces is widely being criticised for wrongfully reporting large numbers of innocent citizens,” they write.

This could have a “chilling effect on a free and diverse society,” they add.

“This is why a ban is needed,” they day.

Use of AI risks making discrimination worse

The MEPs are also calling on the Commission to amend the AI proposal. They want it to outlaw the practice in order to protect EU citizens’ rights and the rights of communities who faced a heightened risk of discrimination. That discrimination would also put them at heightened risk from discriminatory tools supercharged with AI.

“The AI proposal offers a welcome opportunity to prohibit the automated recognition of gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, disability and any other sensitive and protected characteristics,” they say.

Last month, the UN’s human rights chief raised concerns over the potentially “catastrophic” effects AI technologies can have if they fail to implement sufficient regards for human rights.