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French top court OKs AI surveillance at Olympics but no biometrics

French top court OKs AI surveillance at Olympics but no biometrics

The French top constitutional court has cleared the way for the algorithmic processing of video feeds during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics and Paralympics. However, it has defined measures to prevent the system from being used to collect biometric data.

The system, which includes experimental use of real-time video analysis, was approved by the French parliament in April. It detects suspicious items and behavior such as unsupervised luggage and dangerous crowd movements.

Critics, however, have argued that the regulation is too broad and would necessarily lead to the processing of biometric data even though the law forbids it. More than 60 Parliament members had called for a review of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Bill passed in March.

The Constitutional Council issued a decision on Wednesday stating that the bill does not infringe upon privacy rights.

“Contested provisions provide that the algorithmic processing does not implement any facial recognition technique, does not use any biometric identification system and does not have recourse to biometric data, that is to say relating to physical, physiological or behavioral characteristics of a natural person which allow or confirm their unique identification,” the court stated, according to a machine translation.

Still, implementing the surveillance system must be accompanied by specific safeguards that ensure the right to privacy is honored, according to the court.

Algorithmic processing can only be used to ensure the safety of sporting, recreational or cultural events which are particularly exposed to the risk of terrorism or serious threats to personal safety.

Authorities will need to state who’s responsible for processing personal data and provide details on which events will be monitored, why, where and for how long. Individual decisions to use the system can be challenged in court, Politico reports.

The Paris Games are scheduled for July 26 to August 11, with the Paralympics due to follow August 28 to September 8.

The system is expected to be used during this year’s men’s Rugby World Cup and is set to be in place at sites across the city until 2025.

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