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EU studies ethics of biometrics in public spaces at request of parliamentary committees

EU studies ethics of biometrics in public spaces at request of parliamentary committees

A new study commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs analyzing the ethical and legal issues raised by biometric techniques has called for an assessment of the implications, including recommendations for a responsible-use framework.

The policy department is investigating at the request of JURI, the committee on legal affairs, and PETI, the petitions committee.

The study’s aim was to first examine existing and proposed EU legislation relating to April’s Proposal for an Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA) which addresses the risks of the use of AI technology, and then how this relates to several ethical and fundamental rights issues.

For example, the study finds that issues of discrimination or stigmatization arising from biometric identification methods in public spaces are the result of ethical framework deficiencies within certain systems and how the data are interpreted, rather than with the biometric technology itself.

The rise in use of weak (not protected by cryptography) and soft (e.g. gender, age) biometrics alongside strong (e.g. finger, face) biometrics is paving the way for the mass roll-out of biometric technologies for a broad variety of purposes, says the study. To this the authors propose a set of suggestions in order to mitigate various potential ethical and legal implications of biometric technology.

EU legislations surrounding biometric data collection have come under criticism this year, the with the AIA being condemned by rights groups for not providing enough recourse mechanisms for individuals adversely affected by AI.

Meanwhile the EU operational technology management agency eu-LISA is to host an industry roundtable to explore how to better and more safely use existing biometric data that has been collected, scheduled for November.

The study particularly highlights issues with the enrollment phases of biometric technology, including the creation and storage of data on individuals, which, the study cites, can infringe on human autonomy and dignity.

While the study addresses further fundamental rights risks, some recommendations are offered, following on from the Proposal for an AIA, including altered definitions surrounding biometric data and integrating EU transparency obligations, to finally draw conclusions for EU legislation.

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