EU considers temporary ban on facial recognition tech

EU regulators are considering a ban of facial recognition technology in public places until a technique of measuring the impact risk of its use can be fully understood. The EU already has some of the strictest regulations in the world when it comes to personal data and its use, so similarly strong standards are being sought for biometric data.

The European data protection supervisor maintains that turning a human face into an object for companies and governments to measure may infringe on human dignity.

The Commission set out its plans in an 18-page document, detailing that the five year ban, which may contain loopholes for security and research, would give researchers and policymakers time to examine the technology and understand how best to regulate it.

“Building on these existing provisions, the future regulatory framework could go further and include a time-limited ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces,” the document states.

According to a draft report on the artificial intelligence policy in the EU, the ban will give policymakers time to see how facial recognition technology can be reconciled with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, and new rules will be added to any existing data privacy and storage rules.

During the ban, “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed”, says the plan.
Risks currently not covered in existing legislation, the document says, include “the risks of cyber threats, risk to personal security, to privacy and to personal data protection,” which can be considered as part of any future amendments.

However, if the plans are implemented several current AI projects proposed by EU countries could be in jeopardy, including the German government's wish to roll out automatic facial recognition at 134 railway stations and 14 airports.

The final version of the paper is due to be published by the end of February as part of a wider overhaul of the regulation of artificial intelligence.

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