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Proposed Ban For Mass Facial Recognition


The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for a ban on the use of AI-based predictive policing systems and the processing of biometric data that leads to mass surveillance.


The resolution seeks to ban the use of facial recognition technology and AI in several key areas:

– Police use of facial recognition technology in public places.

– Private facial recognition databases (e.g. Clearview AI)

– Predictive policing and social scoring systems.

What Is Clearwater AI?

Clearwater AI is a US-based facial-recognition company started by Australian Hoan Ton-That and a former aide of ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  The AI-software system, which is used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies, has been criticised for using a database that includes billions of photos scraped from social media websites (possibly in violation of social media platform rules). Concerns have also been voiced that, like other systems, it may have a racial bias.

What Is Predictive Policing?

So-called ‘predictive policing’ tools use algorithms and historic data to predict where certain types of crime (e.g. burglaries and street violence) are likely to occur and to predict the likelihood of known individuals exhibiting certain behaviours or characteristics in the future.

What Are Social Scoring Systems?

An example of a social scoring system can be found in China where the Chinese Communist Party operates a “social credit system” for individuals and organisations.  A person’s/organisation’s social score can move up and down depending on their behaviour.  Bad behavior, for example, could include questionable shopping habits, buying too many video games, bad driving, posting on social media, or smoking in non-smoking zones. It has been reported that bad behaviour online, for example, could lead to the punishment of throttling a person’s Internet speed.

What Happens Now?

The European Parliament resolution gives an overview of the argument and indicates the way that voting may go for what will become the AI Act. It is thought that since the AI Act’s lead negotiator, Brando Benifei, and co-negotiators are known to support a blanket ban on facial recognition, there is a strong chance that AI in criminal law and its usage by the police and judicial authorities in criminal matters will have bans and regulations in place soon in the EU.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The case for AI-based facial recognition systems being used in mass surveillance and predictive policing is supposed to help tackle crime in an intelligent, targeted way. The reality (to date) however, has been cases of misidentification, examples of racial bias, strong resistance from freedom groups on matters of privacy, questions about value for money, and questions about ethics. Also, there is a strong feeling that the use and rollout of this technology has happened before the issues have been studied properly and legislation/regulations put in place to offer protection to citizens. Allegations about how Clearwater AI’s database was scraped from social media, as well as worries about the idea of predictive policing and big brother-like social-scoring-systems have all been factors in prompting the need to slow things down and get some rules in place.

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