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The European Commission is Considering a Ban on the Use of Facial Recognition in the EU

January 30, 2020 by Luke James

As regulators try to figure out how to ensure the privacy of EU citizens, facial recognition technology could be prohibited for use in public places for up to five years.

The European Commission is reported to be considering whether to ban facial recognition software and systems in public places for up to five years. This is according to a leaked draft copy of a report on artificial intelligence (AI) policy by the European Union.

A copy of the report was published on January 13th by EURACTIV, a not-for-profit Belgian media think tank. 


Reconciling Facial Recognition Tech with the GDPR

According to the report, the European Commission wants time to explore how AI and facial recognition technology can be used while remaining compliant with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in 2018. European legislators plan to allow EU citizens to benefit from these AI-orientated systems while also limiting any potential risks.

A temporary restriction on the use of facial recognition technology would allow legislators and regulatory bodies the time that they need to work out how it can be abused by both national governments and private organizations. The paper states that exceptions to the ban may be possible, however, including for security and research and development. 

It is thought that the 18-page white paper was due to be released in February.

While the ban is in place, “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed”.


European Commission official logo, which is based on 2 key elements: the European flag and graphic element inspired by the headquarters of the European Commission.

European Commission official logo, which is based on 2 key elements: the European flag and graphic element inspired by the headquarters of the European Commission.


Making Europe Fit for the Digital Age

The European Commission’s white paper comes amid a global debate about AI and the systems that drive it. To bolster existing regulations that protect the privacy and data rights of Europeans, the EU Commission has said that new and tougher rules may need to be introduced. 

"As we are committed to making Europe fit for the digital age, we have to fully reap the benefits of Artificial Intelligence: to enable scientific breakthrough; to preserve the leadership of EU businesses; to improve the life of every EU citizen by enhancing diagnosis and healthcare or increasing the efficiency of farming," a European Commission spokesperson said.

“To maximize the benefits and address the challenges of Artificial Intelligence, Europe has to act as one and will define its own way, a human way. Technology has to serve a purpose, and the people. Trust and security of EU citizens will therefore be at the centre of the EU’s strategy”, the spokesperson added. 

At present, a lot is being done by the European Commission and significant effort is being made to better regulate AI development and the tech sector as a whole. It is still very early days, however, and impact that any legislative changes and intervention will have on key tech sectors remains to be seen. 

Margrethe Vestager, the EU digital and antitrust chief, is expected to present her proposals in February 2020. 

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