EU seeks to ban some facial recognition technology in tough new AI proposals

Jack Parrock
·2 min read
CAMERA
CAMERA

European Union officials unveiled tough new proposals on Wednesday for reining in high-risk uses of artificial intelligence such as live facial recognition technology in crowded public places.

The draft regulations from the EU's executive commission, which would apply to British firms, include rules on the use of the rapidly expanding technology in activities such as choosing school, job or loan applicants. They also would ban artificial intelligence outright in situations such as "social scoring" and systems used to manipulate human behaviour.

The draft plan is to give the EU the power to fine any company that breaches the regulations up to 6 per cent of its global turnover.

Proposed measures include a total ban on certain uses of AI, such as toys which could be used to coerce a child into committing a crime, or an app which manipulates disabled people.

The proposals also include a prohibition in principle on "remote biometric identification," such as the use of live facial recognition on crowds of people in public places, with exceptions only for narrowly defined law enforcement purposes such as searching for a missing child or a wanted person.

The draft regulations also cover AI applications that pose "limited risk," such as chatbots which should be labelled so people know they are interacting with a machine. Most AI applications, such as email spam filters, will be unaffected or covered by existing consumer protection rules, officials said.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commission’s Executive Vice President, said "Europe needs to become a global leader in trustworthy AI by giving businesses access to the best conditions to build advanced AI systems."

But China has stormed ahead in AI using facial recognition technology to give citizens a ‘social score’ and to judge their trustworthiness.

Jennifer Baker, an independent tech policy expert, says complaints from the tech industry are expected.

“Like the boy who cried wolf, the tech sector has claimed every EU law is ‘stifling innovation’ and most of us have yet to see much downturn in their fortunes,” she said.

British companies who remember the 2018 race to implement measures within the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be bracing themselves for another minefield.

“For businesses with data as a key raw material, there will be a lot to get to grips with in the coming years and a swathe of new regulatory risk to manage” according to John Buyers, Head of AI, Osborne Clarke.