EU seeks new regulation of facial recognition technology

The regulation of artificial intelligence is expected to be a priority for the incoming European Commission president.

The Big Picture: The World According To AI
The EU is aiming to crack down on indiscriminate use of facial recognition surveillance technology [Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

Citizens of the European Union will have clear rights over how facial recognition technology companies use their data, as officials plan to curb creeping surveillance of ordinary people, the Financial Times has reported.

New regulations would limit “the indiscriminate use of facial recognition”, a source told the FT on Thursday.

The move comes as Brussels seeks to overhaul the regulation of artificial intelligence.

Facial recognition technology falls into two main streams – hardware and software. While cameras with hard-wired technologies can be expensive, though fast to identify or catalogue faces, software solutions which scan live images fed from existing cameras are becoming more popular.

The UK‘s information commissioner is already studying the increasing use of the technology in London after it was revealed that a private property developer was using facial recognition to track tens of thousands of people in and around the central King’s Cross area.

The non-consensual harvesting of biometric data is already outlawed under EU data protection regulations known as GDPR.


But now the EU wants new laws that “should set a world-standard for AI regulation”, according to a document seen by the FT.

It is also thought to be a priority of incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has promised new legislation “on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence”.

Automatic facial recognition has given police forces enormous power, a British judicial review into the technology’s use heard in May.

But there is no standard code of conduct or legal requirement for law enforcement agencies – let alone private operators of public spaces – that mandates a person’s data is not stored.

The technology has been banned in the US city of San Francisco. A trial operation of automatic facial recognition in London has now ended, a Metropolitan Police spokesperson told Al Jazeera, but not before a man was fined for disorderly conduct after covering his face while passing a police van in the British capital.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies