p class=”dropcap”>In a bid to curb the misuse of facial recognition technology, the European Commission has revealed that it’s considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public areas for up to 5 years. While the use of facial recognition is on the rise, the European regulators want time to draft rules to prevent the technology from being abused. As per a recent report from the BBC, the European Commission has set out its plan in an 18-page document which suggests that new roles will be introduced to strengthen existing regulations regarding privacy and data rights.
The document talks about imposing obligations on both developers and users of artificial intelligence and urged EU countries to create an authority to monitor the new rules. If the ban is implemented, the Commission will develop “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this (facial recognition) technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed.” This new proposal comes at a time when politicians and campaigners in the UK are calling to stop the police from using live facial recognition for public surveillance. The campaigners claim that facial recognition technology, in its current state, is inaccurate, intrusive and infringes on the individual’s right to privacy. A recent study has also suggested that facial recognition algorithms are far less accurate at identifying black and Asian faces compared to white faces.
As per a report from Reuters on the matter, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has backed the temporary ban on facial recognition till regulators are able to come up with rules to prevent its misuse. Pichai took to the stage at a conference in Brussels and said, “I think it is important that governments and regulations tackle it sooner rather than later and give a framework for it…It can be immediate but maybe there’s a waiting period before we really think about how it’s being used…It’s up to governments to chart the course.”
However, Microsoft’s President Brad Smith, who is also the company’s chief legal officer, spoke against the prospective ban. Smith cited the benefits of facial recognition in some instances such as NGOs trying to use it to find missing children and said, “I’m really reluctant to say let’s stop people from using technology in a way that will reunite families when it can help them do it.” Smith further added that the blanket ban on facial recognition was like using a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel to solve potential problems. In support of his argument, he also said that there “is only one way at the end of the day to make technology better and that is to use it.”
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