Public spaces facial recognition might be suspended according to EU’s AI draft white paper

epa08090652 People with shopping bags walking down Oxford Street, London, Britain, 26 December 2019. Shoppers flocked to the city centre as stores slash prices in the traditional Boxing Day sales. EPA-EFE/VICKIE FLORES

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The EU’s new leadership, which took office in December, announced it would initiate legislation for AI technology within its first 100 days in office, hoping to make the bloc the first region in the world with laws for the emerging technologies.

As a first step, Brussels will release a “white paper” in late February, spelling out different options on how to proceed. Afterward, the EU will spend months collecting feedback from the industry, civil society and national governments, according to officials involved in the process; hard laws are not expected by the end of the year.

POLITICO reports that the draft document pitches a detailed rulebook for several AI applications which comes in a stark contrast to nonbinding guidelines released by the U.S. government earlier this month, in which the White House urged a hands-off approach to regulating AI.

“The regulatory framework for artificial intelligence has to be consistent with the overall objectives of the European approach to artificial intelligence,” the draft states. This, it adds, is “to promote Europe’s innovation capacity in this new and promising field, while simultaneously ensuring that this technology is developed and used in a way that respects European values and principles.”

Amongst other issues, POLITICO reports that the draft AI white paper shows that European Union leaders are considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces for up to five years until safeguards to mitigate the technology’s risks are in place.

Building on Europe’s existing tough privacy laws, a “future regulatory framework could go further and include a time-limited ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces,” states an 18-page draft for a “white paper” that Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager is expected to present to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other commissioners during a meeting in mid-February. According to an official directly involved, the document was created before the nomination of Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.


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