The EU Wants to Ban Facial Recognition by Artificial Intelligence

Science and Technology - January 30, 2024

European States Would Like to Grant Real-Time Facial Recognition to Artificial Intelligence Against Terrorists and Kidnappers but Europe Wants to Impose New Limitations

The European Parliament has approved the community regulation which aims to create a sort of regulatory framework, although to be considered in continuous evolution, relating to all the new technologies that use the new artificial intelligence engines. New platforms such as Chat Gpt, for example, are gaining more and more ground in the lives of every individual and are proving to be very useful tools in carrying out some of the activities that until a few months ago were managed by human beings in an integral way. The intention of the European Commission is to reduce the freedom of action of artificial intelligence and make it less invasive for the protection of workers operating in many sectors involved and the privacy of each individual.

The European Union is thus preparing for an inevitable clash on the possibility of using, among other things, real-time facial recognition by the police to identify and possibly stop perpetrators of terrorist crimes or, above all, kidnappers of minors who could be recognised, only thanks to an advanced technology such as the one proposed thanks to the use of AI. The text causing the dispute, called the Artificial Intelligence Act, was approved by the European Parliament with a strong majority of 499 votes, 28 not in favor and with 93 abstentions and will now have to be evaluated and possibly negotiated in the Trilogue with the European Council, in representation of the governments of the 27 member countries.

The intention of the European Union is to propose a concrete and effective solution to stem the risks represented by an increasingly invasive and potentially revolutionary new technology, while preserving the possibility of using it constructively and productively in every possible field. The European Parliament intends to defend, in every seat, its values of democracy and unconditional freedom of individuals, countering any possible danger, something that individual governments do not seem to consider with the same mistrust.

For systems equipped with Artificial Intelligence, the European Commission wants to prohibit the possibility, for example of classifying people from a social point of view or based on their personal characteristics, considered a fundamental point of everyone’s privacy. Strasbourg also intends to curb all those systems which, through AI, carry out real-time biometric identification in all public environments using ethnic, gender or religious characteristics as parameters so as to categorize the individuals in an intrusive and discriminatory manner .

Some recognition systems used by public identification devices also use emotional or behavioral parameters, as already happens during interrogations by the police in certain cases, so as to set suspicions based on predictive procedures. Facial recognition, according to the European text under discussion, clearly violates every individual’s right to privacy and, for this reason, must be regulated without reservations.

Some amendments relating to the rules envisaged by the European Union were rejected because they were too strict and in contrast with the need for the police forces of each state to identify terrorists or child abductors in public places through the recognition of biometric characteristics present. This detail will be discussed during the Trilogue (negotiation between the European Parliament, the Council and the Community Executive) and will be done within the upcoming European elections. In the negotiations, the European line will be clear and will ask for the obligation on the part of the responsible bodies to ask the judge in the case to view the videos with relative facial recognition, only in the event of a disappearance of a minor or a search for suspects of terrorism but the technology will not have to operate in real time.


Alessandro Fiorentino