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European Union

AI Act threatens to make facial surveillance commonplace in Europe

In the final stage of negotiations on the EU’s AI Act, it has become
known that even the publicly announced limitation of the controversial
facial recognition technology to the prosecution of serious criminal
offences[1] has since fallen.[2] Digital freedom fighter and Member of
the European Parliament Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) warns that the law
paves the way for the introduction of biometric mass surveillance in
Europe where EU governments decide to steer this course.

“With this AI law, it appears the EU intends to compete with China not
only technologically but also in terms of high-tech repression. The fact
that error-prone facial recognition applied to CCTV recordings is being
green-lighted for petty offences falls short of the EU Parliament’s own
press release. This will make it possible for cities to oust homeless
people under the heading of ‘trespassing’, as happened in Como, Italy,
or to prosecute sprayers for ‘damaging property’. Even the highly
controversial facial recognition among demonstrators, such as after the
G20 summit in Hamburg, is not being excluded. On the basis of these
rules, facial recognition and chilling effect that comes with it,
threatens to become a standard instrument in Europe, too.

The EU’s AI Act even opens the door to permanent facial surveillance in
real time: Over 6,000 people are wanted by European arrest warrant for
the offences listed in the AI Act. Any public space in Europe can
therefore be placed under permanent biometric mass surveillance on these
grounds. This law legitimises and normalises a culture of mistrust. It
leads Europe into a dystopian future of a mistrustful high-tech
surveillance state.”

[1] Parliament press release on the outcome of the negotiations:
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20231206IPR15699/artificial-intelligence-act-deal-on-comprehensive-rules-for-trustworthy-ai

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[2] Leaked text of the negotiated legislation:
https://www.patrick-breyer.de/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/LEAK-Document-Artificial-Intelligence-Act.pdf

Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash

Dr. Patrick Breyer
Europaabgeordneter der Piratenpartei
Member of the European Parliament for the German Pirate Party

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