Facial recognition technology is one of the most controversial technologies of the millennium. Companies like Clearview AI create massive databases of faces without permission, resulting in criticism from the public and European governments. However, that criticism isn't stopping EU lawmakers from making their own version of the controversial technology.
EU lawmakers on Facial Recognition
As explained by WIRED, police across the European Union countries collaborate to find criminals. Currently, this is done through shared databases of fingerprints, DNA, vehicle details and more. However, this is set to be expanded with an unprecedented-sized facial recognition platform to identify civilians.
Facial recognition technology has already been heavily criticised over the past few years, especially as it becomes integrated into police work. Most criticisms rise from privacy concerns as well as inaccurate AI which leads to wrongful arrests and convictions. This is also an issue with AI audio tools and other police software.
Nevertheless, a number of EU lawmakers are aiming to create the largest official facial recognition platform yet. Dubbed Prüm II, the tool will be based on retrospective facial recognition. This means that the tech takes evidence images and compares them against mugshots, CCTV, social media and images on someone's phone.
Importantly, the system that EU lawmakers are proposing doesn't track people in real-time through CCTV. However, that technology does exist in China and is an integral part of its dystopian real-time “traffic light” system.
The argument against Prüm
Despite the heavy push for facial recognition tools across the European Union, there's also heavy push back against the idea. Ella Jakubowska, a policy adviser at EDRi, told the EU that they are “creating the most extensive biometric surveillance infrastructure… we will ever have seen in the world”.
“When you are applying facial recognition to footage or images retrospectively, sometimes the harms can be even greater,” she said. “Because of the capacity to look back at, say, a protest from three years ago, or to see who I met five years ago, because I'm now a political opponent.”
European data protection superviser Wojciech Wiewiórowski explained that Prüm II is planned to be used for every crime. They said:
“Automated searching of facial images is not limited only to serious crimes but could be carried out for the prevention, detection, and investigation of any criminal offenses, even a petty one.”
IIIn a number of documents dating back to April 2021, the number of faces accessible by Prüm II was revealed. Back then, “Hungary had 30 million photos, Italy 17 million, France 6 million, and Germany 5.5 million”. However, this number has likely expanded massively over the year, especially as more countries get involved.