Stamps and surveillance: Macron seeks to delay EES biometrics until after Olympics
French president Emmanuel Macron intends to delay the introduction of the biometric Entry Exist System (EES) until after the Paris Olympics in August 2024, reports the UK’s Telegraph. Meanwhile, 38 rights organizations sign an open letter to highlight how France’s proposed laws around video surveillance at the Games would violate international human rights laws and “risk colliding with the future EU AI Act.”
Kicking the biometric EES can
Macron hopes to avoid any teething trouble with the use of automatic biometric gates as millions of people travel to Paris from around the world.
Already delayed until November 2023, Macron’s proposals would add another nine months of passport stamping for third-country arrivals into the EU, a particular pain point among travellers from post-Brexit UK.
Travel infrastructure between the UK and France was built in an era of much freer movement. Post-Brexit requirements for a manual passport stamp to record Brits’ EU entry and exit dates (maximum 90 days every 180 days). This requirement has already led to huge delays in border crossings.
The EES scheme would require third-country nationals to submit their biometrics and photograph on their first visit to the bloc once in place. This could create a bottleneck, not just in France but at UK departure points such as the Eurostar terminal in London and ferry ports where passengers clear both borders before departure, meaning biometric capture in the UK.
According to the Telegraph, the UK will endeavour to ensure all preparations are made on the UK side.
Paris may not be as crowded as Macron would like if countries follow through on their threat to boycott the event after the International Olympic Committee planned to allow Russians and Belarussians to compete. Thirty-five countries have submitted a letter to the IOC to state they do not agree with the decision, reports Forbes.
Olympic laws to ‘lead to invasive AI surveillance’ and ‘normalization’
The proposed Olympic law would create a “legal basis for the use of algorithm-driven cameras to detect specific suspicious events in public spaces,” write a group of 38 civil society organizations led by the ECNL, La Quadrature du Net and Amnesty International France in an open letter.
“The proposal paves the way for the use of invasive algorithm-driven video surveillance under the pretext of securing big events. Under this law, France would become the first EU member state to explicitly legalise such practices.”
To recap, in November 2022, the Ministry of Sport confirmed that the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris would not make use of facial recognition as a security measure, an assurance that would be made explicit in an upcoming bill.
There was something of a backtrack as facial recognition seemed back on the table. In mid-January 2023, senators’ discussion of the Olympics and Paralympic Games bill was bungled. Some senators had called for facial recognition, and the bill included temporary provision for real-time automated behavior monitoring. The facial recognition element was to be reformulated and reintroduced, with some calling for a separate law on it.
This was met with backlash from civil society and the head of the data authority, the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés).
Senators then passed the bill which excludes facial recognition but allows incident recognition, as part of a vast surveillance system slated to be in place until June 2025, almost a year after the event. The host city was wracked by terror attacks in 2015.
The bill has now passed through the National Assembly’s law committee, Politico reports, but with an end-date of December 24, 2024.