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AI Act: Lead committees to ban facial surveillance in Europe

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

Today, the two lead committees of the European Parliament voted to fully ban biometric mass surveillance in Europe’s public spaces, namely by using the controversial facial recognition technology. The decision was taken by 57:36:10 votes. The committees also voted to ban Clearview AI-type facial recognition databases, biometric categorisation and emotion recognition in the proposed EU Act on Artificial Intelligence, as long advocated for by Pirate Party MEPs. The committee vote will need to be confirmed by all lawmakers in a plenary vote, and the Parliament will then need to negotiate a compromise with the second chamber representing national governments.

Patrick Breyer, Member of the European Parliament for the German Pirate Party and Greens/EFA leader of the campaign for a ban on biometric mass surveillance, comments:

“Today’s vote is a historic breakthrough for the movement to prevent a China-style dystopian future of biometric mass surveillance in Europe. There is no evidence whatsoever that this error-prone technology ever found a single terrorist. We will continue to fight against facial surveillance technology in our public spaces, because they wrongfully report large numbers of innocent citizens, systematically discriminate against under-represented groups and have a chilling effect on a free and diverse society. In the upcoming plenary vote, monitoring our behavior in public to report us for allegedly ‘abnormal’ activity needs to be added to the list of bans. This mass surveillance technology, which the French government plans to bring to Europe, chills diversity and pushes us into conformity, which is the opposite of the open society we want to live in.“

Full text adopted: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/plmrep/COMMITTEES/CJ40/DV/2023/05-11/ConsolidatedCA_IMCOLIBE_AI_ACT_EN.pdf (bans on p. 128 pp.)