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Civil Liberties Groups Band Together to Try And Ban Biometric Surveillance

Mon Feb 22 2021

“Biometric mass surveillance brings Internet-style omnipresent tracking to the offline world”

Privacy groups and civil rights organisations have geared up to try and persuade the EU to implement a ban on biometrics being used for surveillance purposes as part of the debate on what role AI should play in the coming years.

Groups such as Reclaim Your Face (a coalition of 39 different European civil organisations), the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, Privacy International and many others have launched a petition to that effect with the stated goal of getting over a million signatures.


Their concern is the growing use of biometric data in sectors such as law enforcement where facial, iris or vein scans, as well as walking gaits, can be analysed with machine learning and then used to track private citizens in their day-to-day lives as well as make predictions about them on how they might act in given situations; the worry being current or future regimes could use such techniques for nefarious purposes. 


Currently the European Commission is drafting new legislation around the use of Artificial Intelligence, likely to become law in mid to late ’21, which is why these groups are trying to focus as much attention on biometric data as they can, arguing that privacy and human dignity issues need to be considered and be at the forefront of legislators minds as the new laws are drafted.

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Biometric mass surveillance brings 'Internet-style' omnipresent tracking to the offline world. This would eradicate the few remaining refuges of privacy. Governments, police forces and corporations are using recording devices (like CCTV cameras) and facial recognition software to gather our unique biometric data. They track us by using our unique characteristics in order to permanently identify each of us. The blanket capture of every person's biometric data in public spaces like parks, train stations and shops simply for trying to live our lives is biometric mass surveillance.

Linus Neumann - Chaos Computer Club & European Digital Rights (EDRi)

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Orsolya Reich added…

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This is about everyone's control over their own future. We can already see this happening with the way AI is used to make decisions about us. Biometric mass surveillance will just feed more data from more people into these systems and make these practices even more widespread and harmful.

Orsolya Reich - Senior Advocacy Officer,  Civil Liberties Union for Europe

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Mon Feb 22 2021

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