Thursday 22 August 2019 3:11 pm

EU considers giving citizens explicit rights over facial recognition data

The European Commission is considering introducing strict regulations governing the use of facial recognition technology that would give EU citizens explicit rights over the use of their facial recognition data. 

The Commission’s plans, which were first reported in the Financial Times, would be part of a wider overhaul into how the EU regulates artificial intelligence (AI).

Under the plans, EU citizens would be given the right to know when facial recognition data is used, with any exceptions strictly monitored. 

Read more: King’s Cross defends use of facial recognition technology


The proposals aim to limit “the indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology’’ by public authorities and companies, an official told the Financial Times. 

Although the collection of biometric data is already prohibited under existing rules, no EU data protection authority has yet fined an organisation for breaching them. 

Incoming commission president Ursula von der Leyen, has signaled her support for increased AI regulation, and has pledged to unveil new legislation governing its use within her first 100 days in office. 

Speaking to City A.M. about the proposals, Emily Taylor, chief executive of Oxford Information Labs, said that ensuring the enforcement of existing laws was crucial. “I don’t think our problem is lack of laws, it’s a lack of enforcement and effective understanding,” she said. 

“The problem is making sure everyone understands the limit, and that these powerful new technologies are rolled out with extreme care, and not indiscriminately like it’s a new toy,” Taylor added.

There have been concerns recently about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces in the UK.

The developer behind King’s Cross came under scrutiny for its use of the technology last week. Argent, which oversees the 67-acre site, said its use of the cameras was “in the interest of public safety”. 


Read more: Should we be worried about police use of facial recognition technology?

Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, said last month that live facial recognition technology (LFR) is “a high priority area” for her office. 

“Legitimate aims have been identified for the use of LFR,” she said in a blog post last month, but cautioned: “there remain significant privacy and data protection issues that must be addressed, and I remain deeply concerned about the rollout of this technology.”

A spokesperson for the European Commission said it did not comment on leaked documents.

Main image credit: Getty

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