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Biometric surveillance will be debated until the final stages of AI Act

Biometric surveillance will be debated until the final stages of AI Act

Regulating biometric surveillance within the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act may remain a point of contention for lawmakers until the very last minute.

An unnamed policy advisor to the European Commission told Reuters this week that the issue of biometric surveillance could go “down to the wire.”

Some European lawmakers are seeking to ban the technology altogether.

“I believe biometric facial surveillance should not be in the AI Act. It should be banned,” says Svenja Hahn, a lawmaker participating in the AI Act negotiating team.

In June, the AI Act reached its final phase after the European Parliament adopted its position on the law after months of heated debates. Some parliamentarians have even pushed to prohibit the use of biometric fingerprints or facial recognition for unlocking devices such as mobile phones. The proposal, however, did not end up in the final version of the Parliament’s position, according to Reuters.

The legislation still has a long way to go. The next step are trilogues between the EU Parliament, the EU Council of Ministers, representing European governments, and the European Commission, with the law expected to take effect sometime after 2025.

AI Act rapporteur Brando Benifei, who is co-leading negotiations on the legislation, urged EU states on Thursday to seek compromise in key areas in order to reach an agreement by the end of 2023.

Aside from biometric surveillance, another contentious issue for the legislation is copyrighted material used by ChatGPT and other generative AI models.

“We need a more united Europe also on technology if we want to be competitive, this regulation is a ‘stress test’ to some extent,” Benifei says.

The European Parliament voted for a full ban on real-time biometric surveillance, emotion recognition and predictive policing systems in June. It also expanded the list of prohibited AI practices such as biometric categorization systems using sensitive characteristics and untargeted scraping of facial images.

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