Incoming German gov backs EU ban on AI public facial recognition, social scoring
The coalition formed by the recent general election in Germany is to add its weight to EU proposals to ban remote biometric recognition in public spaces and AI-based automated state scoring systems (or ‘social credit’), reports Politico.
The new coalition, made up of the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats, has included its wish to ban the technologies in its coalition deal statement, backing the European Union’s proposed Artificial Intelligence Act which seeks to outlaw .
Multiple facial recognition surveillance pilots and schemes have taken place throughout the EU, beyond national laws, but a tighter bloc-wide ban could prevent this. The act’s proposals are proving somewhat controversial, but Politico reports that Belgium and Slovakia have already expressed their support and Germany’s support could rally other countries.
German MEP, civil rights activist and lawyer Dr. Patrick Breyer of the Pirate Party has praised the new positions Germany could be taking. In a statement, MEP Breyer said: “The new German government also demands that ‘biometric recognition in public spaces … must be ruled out under European law.’ This is great support for an EU-wide ban on biometric mass surveillance and provides important backing for the negotiations on the upcoming AI act.
“Germany is likewise speaking out against the EU’s plans for chat control, i.e. the error-prone warrantless screening of all private communications on the Internet. It now supports the ‘right to encryption.’ The new government thus sends a clear signal to Ursula von der Leyen and Ylva Johansson to stop the insane plans for chat control on all smartphones, which violate fundamental rights and threaten the secrecy of and trust in digital communications.”
Breyer also supports the coalition’s stance on anonymity online: “Regarding the Digital Services Act negotiations, the new German government says: ‘The right to anonymity both in public space and on the internet must be guaranteed.’ This right needs to become part of the Digital Services Act in order to prevent unauthorised disclosure, identity theft and other forms of abuse of personal data.”
The prospects for public surveillance facial recognition in Europe are looking increasingly limited as the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) wants to go even further than the AI Act, and rule out even the exemptions for usage allowed in the proposals. Speaking at a recent workshop on the act arranged by the European Association for Biometrics (EAB), a representative of the EDPS gave its stance as “the limited exemptions to the ban in the proposal of the AI Act still imply mass surveillance” and depart from the transparency principle.