European Parliament supports ban on police facial recognition tools

As facial recognition becomes more advanced, its uses have multiplied. No longer is the technology used for simply tracking faces for auto-focus cameras. The police use this technology tracking people through streets, and the European Parliament isn't having it.

Reported by The Register, the European Parliament has finally started to tackle the issues of police surveillance. In its current form, facial recognition tools are used to monitor civilians, even if they're not suspected of crimes.

European Parliament decides to fight facial-recognition

Parliament decided by the majority to battle facial recognition tools used by the police. In the vote, 377 MEPs chose to restrict the use of the technology in law enforcement. In comparison, 248 voted against restricting the technology.

The choice was made after evidence of facial recognition tech’s horrendous flaws were made apparent. For example, the tech is known for misidentifying people, especially those belonging to minority groups. This is because of human bias that makes its way into programming.

Parliament said:

“AI-based identification systems already misidentify minority ethnic groups, LGBTI people, seniors and women at higher rates, which is particularly concerning in the context of law enforcement and the judiciary.”
“To ensure that fundamental rights are upheld when using these technologies, algorithms should be transparent, traceable and sufficiently documented, MEPs ask. Where possible, public authorities should use open-source software in order to be more transparent.”

Read More: AI audio tool sent the wrong man to jail on murder charge

A start to better digital privacy

The restrictions that the European Parliament wish to impose would stop police forces from spying on the public. Instead of widespread public surveillance, the technology would only be acceptably used on suspects. Additionally, those with past convictions or poor social scores can not be monitored.

Parliament said:

“To respect privacy and human dignity, MEPs ask for a permanent ban on the automated recognition of individuals in public spaces, noting that citizens should only be monitored when suspected of a crime. Parliament calls for the use of private facial recognition databases (like the Clearview AI system, which is already in use) and predictive policing based on behavioural data to be forbidden.”

Parliament will have to vote again on individual bills to actually tackle the issue. However, this is a great first step towards a more comfortable, private life for ordinary citizens.

Read More: Singapore's new robot police are causing havoc

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