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Breakthrough: Parliament calls for ban of biometric mass surveillance

Strasbourg, 06/10/2021 – Last night, the European Parliament adopted a report on the use of Artificial Intelligence in criminal law and its use by the police and judicial authorities in criminal matters (A9-0232/2021). The text includes a historic paragraph: For the first time, the Parliament speaks out collectively against biometric mass surveillance technology. The European Pirates have long warned against the fundamental rights implications of facial recognition systems.

Patrick Breyer, German Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament and shadow rapporteur of the report, comments:

“This is a breakthrough for the movement to stop biometric mass surveillance in Europe. Civil society, and most prominently the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Reclaim Your Face’, have long called for a ban on these highly intrusive and error-prone technologies in public spaces, which wrongfully report large numbers of innocent citizens, systematically discriminate against under-represented groups and have a chilling effect on a free and diverse society. With error rates (false positives) of up to 99%, ineffective facial surveillance technology bears no resemblance to the targeted search that proponents are trying to present it as.

“Today, the European Parliament joins the fight against biometric mass surveillance. This vote sends a strong message to the lawmakers and governments negotiating the future Artificial Intelligence Act: Implement the ban!”

Marcel Kolaja MEP, Czech Pirate and Vice-President of the European Parliament, who is rapporteur of the IMCO opinion to the report, comments:

“This European call for a ban on facial recognition in public space truly is an important step in fighting against mass surveillance and it also lays the grounds for future negotiations on AI in the Parliament.

“What we need to understand is that such practices would jeopardize fundamental rights of European citizens. Moreover, it would greatly threaten minorities, human rights activists as well as the work of journalists. With facial recognition in public spaces, journalists could not possibly do their work safely. Oligarchs would have even more tools in their hands to persecute and oppress those who risk their lives when fighting against injustice. Mass surveillance of citizens and democratic principles simply do not go hand in hand. And it is crucial that the Parliament recognized that in this report.”

For further details and media inquiries please contact:

Nikolaus Riss for German and English +436769694000

Tomáš Polák for Czech and English +420728035059

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