France adopts AI surveillance bill ahead of 2024 Olympics, drawing controversy
The French legislature on Thursday passed a highly debated bill that will give police the authority to use artificial intelligence (AI) tools for surveillance purposes. The move comes ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics, which is expected to draw millions of visitors.
Under this law, authorities will have access to software capable of identifying threats such as suspicious crowd movements and abandoned bags. While facial recognition technology is not allowed, campaigners are still concerned that it could lead to automated surveillance with the potential for discrimination and privacy infringement.
Noémie Levain from data rights group La Quadrature du Net has opposed the bill, saying: “This law hides immense powers of analysis and inspection over us and our bodies under the pretense of experimentation.”
However, MP Philippe Latombe has defended the bill, asserting that appropriate safeguards will be in place so that only companies adhering to French and European Union regulations, with data stored on French soil, can provide the software.
Leading up to this news, EU MPs have expressed alarm over proposed surveillance measures for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, which may involve processing images captured by surveillance cameras using an artificial intelligence system.
A letter from European members of parliament to members of the Assemblée Nationale objects to Article 7 of a draft law pertaining to the games, pointing out that it threatens the right to privacy, data protection and freedom of expression.
The letter further warned that allowing AI surveillance would set a dangerous precedent, especially since the technology has only been embraced by China thus far, the MPs note.
Member of European Parliament Patrick Breyer of the Pirate Party said that he expects “the court to annul this indiscriminate surveillance legislation for violating our fundamental rights.” He is among a coalition of 41 MEPs from several parties who addressed an open letter to France’s parliament calling on it to reverse course.
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