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AI proposal: Commission President Von der Leyen rejects critism of MEPs about biometric mass surveillance in public spaces

In April, 40 Members of the European Parliament called on the European Commission to include in its AI regulation a ban on the use of „artificial intelligence“ technologies for indiscriminate surveillance, including biometric mass surveillance in public spaces.

Commission President Von der Leyen now replied to the letter and justifies face surveillance with a need to look for missing children and criminal suspects. MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party, Greens/EFA) retorts:

„President Von der Leyen fails to convincingly address our criticism that biometric mass surveillance technology in publicly accessible spaces wrongfully reports large numbers of innocent citizens, systematically discriminates against under-represented groups and has a chilling effect on a free and diverse society:

Firstly, the use of technology by visually impaired persons does not constitute biometric mass surveillance of public spaces which we want banned.

Secondly, with error rates (false positives) of up to 99% facial recognition cannot be called a “targeted search”. Biometric mass surveillance is an entirely ineffective and disproportionate method to look for “missing children” or “terrorists”. The President does not provide even one example of this having proven effective.

And lastly the Commission is not proposing “a few, narrowly defined exceptions”, but its legislative proposal would justify the permanent and ubiquitious deployment of face surveillance to look for the thousands of suspects of “serious crime” that are wanted at any time.

Other forms of indiscriminate surveillance are not mentioned in the letter of reply. Regarding emotion recognition and biometric categorisation systems transparency is clearly an inadequate response to the risks.

The European Parliament will need to push strong to protect our citizens from dystopian surveillance technology! I call on citizens to support us by signing the ongoing European Citizens Initiative.

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