European Union considering five-year ban on facial recognition technology at public places

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Jan 18, 2020, 11.53 AM(IST) Edited By: Bharat Sharma

A live demonstration uses artificial intelligence and facial recognition in dense crowd spatial-temporal technology at the Horizon Robotics exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2019 Photograph:( WION Web Team )

Story highlights

  • European Commission has announced plans to ban the use of facial recognition in public areas
  • Facial recognition technology is mostly used by police forces around the world to curate watch lists
  • The Commission has suggested the creation of an authority to monitor new rules

The European Commission has announced plans to ban the use of facial recognition in public areas for at least five years.

According to the officials, regulators want to stop the technology from being misused, BBC reported.

The facial recognition technology is mostly used by police forces around the world to curate watch lists, based on the CCTV footage.

According to BBC, exceptions will be made in this regard for reasons pertaining to security, research, and development.

In an 18-page document, the European Commission suggested new rules within existing regulations about privacy and data rights.

The Commission has suggested the creation of an authority to monitor new rules. Within the dictate of the proposal, rules will be imposed on both the developers and users of artificial intelligence. 

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Image: AI (artificial intelligence) security cameras with facial recognition technology are seen at the 14th China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security at the China International Exhibition Center in Beijing on October 24, 2019 | AFP
 

The ban is expected to last between three and five years, and as BBC reported is "a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed".

There has major global outcry over the use of artificial intelligence and the role played by facial recognition and the data it gathers. Campaigners in the UK want the police to stop using facial recognition for public surveillance.

Recently, King’s Cross, a major rail hub, was at the centre of controversy when it was found that the owners were employing recognition technology without the informed consent of the public. 

Many activists and campaigners feel that the facial technology, as it exists presently, is only partially accurate, highly intrusive and circumvents many fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens across democracies, like the right to privacy.  

BBC reported that a recent study found facial recognition algorithms are racially incongruent. For clarity, the technology less accurate at identifying black and Asian faces compared with white faces.

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Image: A construction worker walks past facial recognition screens at the entrance to the terminal building of the new Beijing Daxing International Airport, in Beijing on March 1, 2019 | AFP
 

China has been stepping up its public surveillance programmes with the help of facial recognition technologies. For instance, recently, the government had been tracking certain people in Shanghai's pharmacies for buying certain drugs.

As part of this scheme, people who intend to buy certain medicines, such as ones with psychotropic substances, will be forced to verify their identity using facial recognition technology. 

China has been clamping down on drugs and this is the latest move in its aspiration to halt the production of illegal drugs. 

And even though the West has shown reservations with facial recognition technology, China has embraced it with open arms.

Also read: Racial bias found in facial recognition tools: US government study