back to article Europe mulls five year ban on facial recognition in public... with loopholes for security and research

The European Commission is weighing whether to ban facial recognition systems in public areas for up to five years, according to a draft report on artificial intelligence policy in the European Union. A copy of the unreleased report [PDF] was published on Thursday by EURACTIV, a Belgian non-profit media think tank. The …

  1. spold Silver badge

    I have my doubts about the next stage....

    >>>

    The next stage will be pressure to adopt other forms of objectification of the human being, gait, emotions, brainwaves

    <<<

    I think there might be certain parts of certain countries where public brainwave recognition would be a complete waste of time.... we found one... oh a tourist!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wojciech Wiewiórowski

    He must have fun with people unable to enter this correctly into databases

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wojciech Wiewiórowski

      As someone who has a way more complex Polish name - nah, he got it easy, only one diacritic, lots of vowels :p.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wojciech Wiewiórowski

        PS. I would also like thank The Register for not treating diacritics as an optional thing. Seems like a small, inconsequential thing, but it demonstrates respect for people of other cultures/ethnicities/traditions.

        (Sorry for the doublepost, went juuuust out of edit time limit)

  3. ThatOne Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Optimization of Citizenry

    Where one can accumulate data about everyone (and his dog) and compile it into a neat database, to be able to assert "value to society", which then allows to quietly discard the "less valuable members" (disabled, old, deviant thoughts and habits, non-standard looks, prone to illness, not voting for the right party, plus whatever else some "decision maker" will consider to be a good idea). All this made easy and affordable through technology. No more need for snitches and informers/stool pigeons, "the computer" is quietly collecting everything you need to know on everyone, including all those you didn't yet know you strongly dislike, just in case.

    "1984" tried to warn us on the principle of constant surveillance, but Orwell didn't imagine how much more efficient the real thing would be, collecting data from everything you do during the day: Smart this and smart that, your whole life is spend under the microscope of those unsure if they actually like you or not.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Optimization of Citizenry

      "Orwell didn't imagine how much more efficient the real thing would be, collecting data from everything you do during the day"

      Yup.

      About the only viable defense now is to firehose the collectors - feed them as much JUNK as possible that 99% of what they have is trash.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Optimization of Citizenry

        Works until they get better at data mining, then they can sort the Junk out. Trouble could be unless the Junk is very random it is still going to tell things about you or worse if the Junk contains something the powers that be do not approve of.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Optimization of Citizenry

      And we have to remember the Holocaust was made much easier by identity papers and records which recorded ethnicity and religion.

      When filling in online forms these days (job hunting) I refuse to answer any question requesting my gender when they mean my sex. The conflation of the two is dangerous and silly. I'm a scientist, distinctions matter and sex and gender are not the same thing.

      I don't care how woke it is, I'm not playing and if it screws with your equalities monitoring that's your lookout for being scientifically, psychologically, sociologically and ethically ignorant.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Optimization of Citizenry

        The "equal opportunities monitoring" section that asks such questions is (supposed to be) separate from the rest of the job application and is to be used only for comparing the ethnic origin / gender of the applicants against those of who gets the jobs, to ensure that an organisation isn't, for example, getting lots of applications from BAME women, but only employing white men (or vice-versa, prejudice can operate in any direction), despite the fact that they are all equally qualified for the job, on paper. That sort of thing. Nothing about being "woke", so settle yourself back down.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Optimization of Citizenry

          ...oh, and I forgot to mention, such questionnaires are, in my experience, always optional, usually with a pretty clear explanation of the fact that they are collacting the data for monitoring, and you are perfectly welcome to not provide it.

  4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    People can only be tracked 24x7 by security services

    For reasons of security.....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Farcical recognition

    Those Euros, finding new way to keep the Brits out.

    Cross checked with the NHS database I'm sure.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Farcical recognition

      I'm a Brit living and working in France. The locals (and even the beaurocrats) have made me feel a lot more welcome than the government and people of my country of origin.

      Post referendum, the overwhelming sentiment from many Brits (both online and in person) has been a mixture of "bugger off, it has nothing to do with you" (oh really?) and "don't worry, nothing will change" (delusional!).

      Over here? Sympathy, offers to help if I need complicated stuff translated, and the French government has created a site explaining the residency card process in English.

      I can read/speak French, but appreciate that they at least appear to give a shit, which is a lot more than I can say for anybody in Westminster.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Farcical recognition

        "Other people have a nationality. The British have a psychosis" - Brendan Behan on Brexit

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Farcical recognition

          As someone with an Irish surname, he probably knows more than most about exactly how much of a psychosis the British have had over the years...

          It's an absolute crime that Irish history doesn't seem to be taught in British schools. People can't learn from the mistakes of the past if they aren't taught them, and the British (and specifically the English ruling class) have made a lot of "mistakes" in the past when it comes to our closest neighbour.

          I find it ironic (and probably unintentionally so), that as a country, we are planning a "brexit celebration" in 2022, on the centenary of Irish independence. The self-same people who the rest of the wrold struggled to gain independence from now claiming that it's really great to go and isolate yourself...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Farcical recognition

            Er, no, for these people, it's less about "isolating yourself" and more about "make the Empire Where the Sun Never Sets Great Again".

            Perversely, the majority of the relevant party's voters weren't targettable by that subtext, just like in the majority of the voters for the ruling party in my country, Poland, don't care one way or the other about that party's systematic dismantling of the judicial system. It's the 20s again, and election kiełbasa is coming back, big time.

  6. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Interesting link to more recent story

    ""would mean that the use of facial recognition technology by private or public actors in public spaces would be prohibited "

    The question I would pose is: Is 'public space' defined only where living persons are physically present or is it an environment where they interact (social media etc)?

    This relates directly to the case posted in another story so has direct relevance. Given 3bn persons' images trawled for an AI facial recognition database were apparently 'public' images, is the entire 'public' internet environment regarded as a 'public space' for the purposes of this facial recognition issue?

  7. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    ...makes more sense than banning bananas with excessive curvature - is this the same organisation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fake news, bananas aren't bendy

    2. Anonymous Coward
  8. Martlark

    Ban repressive governments, not technology

    The EU should do more to crack down on repressive or racist or corrupt governments. Not faff around with technological distractions. Poland has been messing with it's judiciary. Bulgaria has racist fans. Please react to existent threats, rather than imagine news ones to distract the easily excited.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ban repressive governments, not technology

      Good luck with that idea!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ban repressive governments, not technology

      Ahhh, posted from the "the Eu ohly has one department" school of thought.

      It's a bit like "why does the RSPCA exist when cancer is still a thing?"

    3. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Ban repressive governments, not technology

      It's a good thing it's only Bulgaria that has racist fans. That kind of thing would never happen in the UK. Bloody racist Europeans.

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Ban repressive governments, not technology

      I'll assume then, that you're not one of the people who bemoans being "ruled from Brussels", otherwise you'd find yourself in the uncomfortable position of simultaneously demanding that the EU both exert powers it doesn't have over coutries you don't like, whilst not exerting those powers it doesn't have over this country.

      Such cognitive dissonance might lead to you needing to take a lie down in a darkened room (darkened, in this case, to prevent you from reading the Daily Mail and getting yourself into further trouble).

      In all seriousness though, the EU very specifically does not have any sort of authority over the composition of national governments. This is both by design, and rightly so. Despite what hyperbolic articles recently featured in such eminent periodicals as The Sun might suggest, nobody is ruled by the EU...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bureaucratic unelected authoritarian EU

    Just as well we are leaving this 1994 big-brother unelected institution.

    I'm sure democratically elected Prime Minister Cummings will not follow their lead, and will continue to give us British serfs the freedom to be monitored unchecked by all and sundry.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Bureaucratic unelected authoritarian EU

      ...will continue to give us British serfs the freedom to be monitored unchecked by all and sundry

      This will not be "available" for everyone, just those he and his friends feel deserve it or are dark skinned enough...

  10. naive

    EU civil servant staring out of his Brussels office window thinks....

    Hey we have too many successful European IT tech companies, lets set some limits on the areas they can develop products and leave that to the Chinese.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: EU civil servant staring out of his Brussels office window thinks....

      Maybe it's because the EU is concerned primarily with the welfare of its citizens over the welfare of "the state", whereas China is the other way around?

      Unlike our own government, it would also seem that the democratic processes of the EU Parliament and Council aren't paid for and directed by business and/or very rich private individuals.

  11. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    "allow EU citizens to benefit from AI-oriented systems and to encourage European investment in such technology while also seeking to limit the potential risks"

    The AI development space is still pretty new and quickly evolving. How can you limit the risks but expect to discover the benefits? Basically the rest of the world will move on and the EU will fall further behind.

    "The proposed ban "would mean that the use of facial recognition technology by private or public actors in public spaces would be prohibited for a definite period (e.g. 3-5 years) during which a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed," the report says."

    So the EU wants to stop development and progress for 3-5 years while it tries to understand how this stuff works? Central plan economies dont work, freedom to try things drives development.

    "But there would be exceptions, for research and development and for security purposes"

    So the security people can still use it (aka govs) but everyone else is severely restricted. And the EU wonder why they struggle to have successful innovative companies like those in the US. How can this be a good idea?

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Ha

      Nope. The proposal is "ban this in public spaces", not "ban all development". Please RTFA before ranting.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        @batfink

        "Nope. The proposal is "ban this in public spaces", not "ban all development". Please RTFA before ranting."

        Right. So ban (the word you are using) for all but the gov in an area of rapid development. You have said 'ban all development' in your response but I didnt say that in my comment. I said severely restrict.

        Lets look at an issue of 'in public'. Right now we are looking at self driving cars and phones that unlock through face recognition. These are public applications of technology also being trialled at predicting the movement of rain clouds and detecting cancer. Some of these may or not be affected but the technology is being trialled at pretty much everything people can think of to improve our lives.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha

      The USA "democracy" is even more "corrupt" than the UK one.

      I'd rather have less homegrown facebooks, that more guns, more income inequality, less healthcare, and more homeless.

      The USA is the richest country in the world, yet 50,000 die a year from no healthcare - even more go bankrupt. A 25 year old teacher died just this week because there were delays sorting out what her health insurance covered.

      Many people don't have safe drinking water. (And it's not just Flint)

      Police killings are through the roof, and the politicians are wholly owned by the top 1% and their companys.

      The USA is a poster-child AGAINST unfettered capitalism.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha

      What a suprise! The first time "codejunky" actually comes out with a reason to why he wants to leave the EU, and it's a bunch of conspiratorial bollocks.

      Cheers for the post though!

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        @AC

        "What a suprise! The first time "codejunky" actually comes out with a reason to why he wants to leave the EU"

        Yes I want brexit and no I didnt mention it in my comment. Regardless of a brexit stance this seems a stupid idea and nothing to do with brexit. If the UK come out with this proposal it would still seem to me as daft.

        This isnt a pro/anti brexit thing this just looks like a bad policy of holding back progress 3-5 years while the EU gov try to understand it. At a time where the public applications of AI are forging ahead full steam. And the EU wants to drop the area out of that development excluding 'gov' sanctioned use because they dont understand it.

  12. EBG

    sounds good

    I'm totally against non-consensual facial recognition. The state and any company that does that to me is my enemy.

    However, the proof is always in the pudding. GDPR sounded good, but the outcome was 1. the volunteer sports group I belong to had to to jump through hoops, and 2. the big boys just carry on spamming me anyway.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: sounds good

      "I'm totally against non-consensual facial recognition"

      This must be quite a problem. From time to time people must recognise you even if you haven't consented to being recognized by them.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: sounds good

      > the big boys just carry on spamming me anyway.

      Must be the first time issuing a law didn't instantly and completely eradicate the targeted offense!...

      Seriously, what GDPR does, is that it allows you to fight back, as opposed to before, when you could only shut up and let them do with your information whatever they wanted.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: sounds good

      "It hasn't worked how I expected, so what's the point?"

      We have laws against murderinfg, but murders still happen. What's the point?

  13. EnviableOne Silver badge

    Finally

    Some one asking SHOULD we? before CAN we?

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Finally

      Politicians frequently ask the "should we" (extrapolated into "we must") before the "can we".

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Finally

      > Some one asking SHOULD we? before CAN we?

      NEVER! The old "because we can" is one of the most sacred principles of human decision-making.

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