Press release

Historic vote: EU Parliament to ban biometric mass surveillance

Strasbourg, 14/06/2023 – Today, the European Parliament voted to ban real-time facial surveillance in public spaces under the EU’s new Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act). Automated behavioural surveillance, on the other hand, is not to be banned by a narrow majority (277:306:38). With this position, the European Parliament goes into the trilogue negotiations with the EU governments.

Marcel Kolaja, Member and Quaestor of the European Parliament and opinion rapporteur for the AI Act in the CULT Committee, comments:

“In the future, AI programs will increasingly interfere in every aspect of our daily lives. While that can be an opportunity for growth, we have to consider the risks as well. There are technologies that, in the wrong hands, can infringe upon our fundamental rights. Take emotion recognition AI for instance: it takes the completely pseudo-scientific idea that you can tell emotions from facial expressions and makes assumptions. Assumptions that can influence someone’s career or schooling. Or social scoring AI, think of the current system in China. I am glad that such unethical and dangerous practices will be banned under the AI Act and that the legislation will provide us guarantees of safe and ethical use of AI.”

Patrick Breyer, Pirate Party MEP and digital rights activist, comments:

“Even if we were not able to push through a ban on the dangerous behavioural surveillance technology: The fact that the European Parliament is pushing for a ban on biometric real-time mass surveillance in public spaces is a historic success for the civil rights movement and a clear sign against a dystopian future of Chinese-style biometric mass surveillance in Europe. After all, in not a single case could biometric real-time surveillance prevent a terrorist attack, as advocates would have us believe. Contrary to what some claim, there is not a single example of real-time biometric surveillance preventing a terrorist attack or other such events. With false alarm rates as high as 99%, these technologies are not nearly reliable enough to be of any use. These technologies systematically discriminate against underrepresented groups and have a chilling effect on a free and diverse society.“

Mikuláš Peksa, Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament and Chairperson of the European Pirates, comments:

“We clearly need an AI law. Until now, AI has not been regulated in any way, anywhere. I am pleased that my colleagues from the group have advocated greater emphasis on the protection of human rights and privacy. In this respect, the amendment which bans the recognition of people’s behaviour in public spaces by means of camera systems (so-called biometric recognition) is particularly important. Personally, I also welcome the part on environmental protection, especially the mandatory measurement and reporting of the carbon footprint and energy efficiency of artificial intelligence systems.”

Markéta Gregorová, Czech Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament, comments:

“A free and safe internet has been a fundamental theme of the Pirates movement since its birth. The relevance of the Pirates as a permanent part of the political spectrum grows with each new challenge that the online environment brings. While other parties address the issue only marginally, if at all, for the Pirates, this is where the shape of the world we live in has been decided for some time. Artificial intelligence is rapidly penetrating our lives, without parties, states and nations being able to respond adequately. I welcome the AI Act as an important starting point for further work not only at the European level – dialogue with governments, and above all with the general public, will now be key. My Pirate colleagues and I will try to do our best in this.”

MorePlenary speech by MEP Patrick Breyer on the AI Act. (13/06/2023)

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