Facial recognition and AI get the evil eye from community groups and governments
In Europe and the U.S., pushback against facial recognition is being organized by groups concerned about police overreach, privacy and biometric data security.
“Facial recognition threatens our freedoms,” reads a petition filed with Belgium’s Parliament with the backing of organizations including the Belgium Human Rights League. The petition calls for a ban on facial recognition in public places, and for its use by authorities in identifying people.
“The use of this technology on our streets would make us permanently identifiable and monitored,” it says. “This amounts to giving the authorities the power to identify the entirely of its population in the public space, which constitutes an invasion of privacy and the right to the anonymity of citizens.”
The petition argues that facial recognition will harm marginalized groups. It highlights the risks of data breaches exposing biometric data, increased incidence of bias and systemic discrimination and the normalization of mass surveillance.
There is no reason to trust that biometric surveillance will be operated with respect. “No law governs the use of facial recognition technologies by public authorities.”
US campaign aims at ICE, Clearview AI
Meanwhile, in California, a legal team working with activists and community groups has launched a campaign that calls out police misuse of facial recognition.
“Eyes on Tech is focused on exposing the dangers of facial recognition when secret surveillance policing and profit are centered, not our communities,” said Paromita Shah, executive director of Just Futures Law, in a statement.
“Facial recognition is infiltrating our communities, and no one is using it more than the police,” Shah said. “Private tech companies like Clearview AI are violating our privacy rights and giving law enforcement, including (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), our information on a silver platter.”
The organization is suing Clearview in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of four plaintiffs alleging that the firm has violated California state rights and consumer protection laws.
Mass surveillance plan scores low with EU MPs
Back in the EU, regulators expressed alarm over proposed surveillance measures for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.
“Vote to stop a future of biometric mass surveillance in Europe,” reads a letter from European members of parliament to members of the Assemblée Nationale. Their objection centers on Article 7 of a draft law pertaining to the Games, which states that images captured by surveillance cameras “may be subject to processing including an artificial intelligence system.”
“France would set a surveillance precedent of the kind never before seen in Europe, using the pretext of the Olympic Games,” reads the letter. “This measure threatens the very essence of the right to privacy, data protection and freedom of expression, making it contrary to international and European human rights law.”
Article 7 states that the specified processing “does not use any biometric identification system, does not process any biometric data and does not implement any facial recognition technique.”
But the signatories of the letter contend that the law — which is not worded to apply exclusively to Olympic or Paralympic events, but broadly to “sporting, recreational or cultural events, which, by their scale or their circumstances, are particularly exposed to the risk of acts of terrorism or serious threat to the safety of persons”— would be at odds with language used in a precursor to the AI Act, which prohibits the use of automated analysis of human features, biometric and behavioral signals.
“Notably, the only country to comprehensively embrace biometric mass surveillance of the entire population so far is authoritarian China,” the letter says. “For a democratic country like France to encourage these signals would send a carte blanche to repressive regimes around the world to do the same to their citizens.”