top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichaela Jamelska

European Parliament calls for a ban on facial but might need it tomorrow.

A couple of days back, The European Parliament called for a ban on police use of facial recognition technology in public places. The reasons stated were controversial practices around Ai facial recognition and Ai databases used by companies.

As far as the intentions are good (perhaps) to protect the public from any authorized surveillance and ensure data protection of each civilian, is this a way to go about it?

Ai facial recognition technology is nowadays popular especially when profiling potential criminals, and tracking existing criminals. In this call, the European Commission’s proposal of the bill restricts the use of remote biometric identification — including facial recognition technology — in public places unless it is to fight “serious” crime, such as kidnappings and terrorism. ( Politico ) The European Parliament goes as far as introducing the permanent ban on a variety of those recognition technologies. This call also seeks to forbid private companies to operate with large numbers of private data which are fed into facial recognition databases. Essentially, MEPs in favor of this ban are claiming that it isn’t time yet to use it and as first, a proper regulatory framework needs to be developed to safeguard privacy and data protection before such technologies can be widely used in public places by law enforcement authorities.

One could argue why the Ai framework is not in place yet, while others would say the Ai development is happening at such high speed that the legal frameworks will never be able to catch up. The European Parliament strategy even if meant well, seems not only short-sighted on how to overcome current difficulties of the Ai use but loosely designed.

It seems like officials would rather ban it instead of learning to understand how to use it. Imagine that approach with cars a century back, I would be still riding a horse to work. The one piece of information that is repeating in most of the articles about the call is that the Ai facial recognition technologies can be used if the real danger such as terrorism or if a serious crime may occur.

I am trying to envision this in a practice. Follow me > some good soul calling the police and informing them about the potential crime, its place, and time. And just then, when it occurs as a possible option, exactly on that place and hour, somebody climbs the streetlamp and installs the Ai facial recognition camera, climbs down, and waves, we are good to go.

Although this is not probably, what the European Parliament meant this is how it looks like.

The strategies around Ai must be really better articulated and presented than just calling to ban an Ai’s facial recognition. However, the debate that the call also really brings up is about improving Ai facial recognition and its use. There are undoubtedly also some flaws with facial recognition technologies. The technology used by the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police in 2019 was found to be 81% inaccurate, mistakenly targeting four out of five innocent people as wanted suspects, a University of Essex whitepaper commissioned by Scotland Yard found. (Engadget) In 2019, only half of U.S. adults said that they trusted law enforcement to use facial recognition responsibly, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

While more comprehensive frameworks are definitely needed to regulate the use of facial recognition, it is important to focus on improving the solution rather than throwing it out of the window and the efforts should focus on the regulators finally getting up to speed with the technological progress. We can not be going 2 steps forward 1 step back all the time.

bottom of page