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European Parliament wants to keep option for biometrics surveillance ban

European Parliament wants to keep option for biometrics surveillance ban

A German member of the European Parliament is reporting that that body has acted to keep the recommendation of a ban on mass biometrics surveillance by police in a report.

The members did not vote to ban the indiscriminate government use of facial recognition and other biometrics for surveillance in public spaces. They voted to reject a call to strip such a call from a report submitted by the parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, known as LIBE.

Europe has worked this ground before without opting for a ban. On the forensic side, the European Council has worked to integrate face biometrics systems across member states.

The report in question is a lengthy and broad statement calling for the ethical development and use of AI systems used to surveil people in the European Union. It touches on all of the major principles espoused by people around the globe who fear a digital police state unhindered by human management or concerns for human rights.

It goes farther than has been politically acceptable in developed economies by stating that “any blanket application of AI for the purpose of mass surveillance would be disproportionate.”

In fact, it calls on the European Commission to “implement, through legislative and non-legislative means … a ban on any processing of biometric data, including facial images, for law enforcement purposes that leads to mass surveillance in publicly accessible spaces.”

The Parliament has not made public the debate or the final vote on removing the recommendation.

However, MEP Patrick Breyer, a Pirate Party member affiliated with the Greens/European Free Alliance coalition, told Biometric Update in an email Tuesday that the tally was 403 members against striking the language, 259 for striking and 30 abstaining.

The full text was of the report was adopted by a vote of 377 for and 248 against with 62 abstentions.

The vote comes as the European Union moves close to a vote on its Artificial Intelligence Act.

China reportedly has created a national set of AI principles, but they appear to be long on concept and short on substance.

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