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US News Facial recognition ban left out of the EU's agenda to regulate AI

04:00  21 february  2020
04:00  21 february  2020 Source:   qz.com

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The EU commission' s white paper on AI regulation tries to balance rights of individuals with needs of industry amid global boom. A new report of the European Agency for Fundamental Rights calls for "a clear legal framework" to regulate facial recognition technologies, saying that collecting facial

A leaked draft had suggested a ban on facial recognition ' s use in public areas would be proposed. While there were no specific proposals on how to regulate facial recognition , the document did say potentially re-training AI systems developed outside the EU so that they comply with rules particular to

(Video by ABC News)

The term “facial recognition” only appears four times in the 27-page document that outlines Europe’s vision for the future of artificial intelligence. Three of those four instances are in footnotes.

The document, known as the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, is a part of the European Union Commission’s ambitious agenda to regulate the tech sector of the EU’s 27 member nations, which it released this week (Feb. 19).

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The EU hopes to boost research into as well as regulate artificial intelligence. The bloc also wants to create a marketplace for "unbiased" data. Facial recognition in particular has been the focus of data privacy experts and activists who fear that the technology could lead to new levels of intrusion on the

The proposals could place a temporary ban on all facial recognition in public, create a single market for data throughout the entire EU , and ask for MORE: Britain formally leaves European Union. In addition to releasing its plan to regulate AI , the EU is expected to also announce its European Data

AI ethics experts warn against the unregulated use of facial recognition, which is currently being deployed by both governments and the private sector. The fact that the controversial technology is barely mentioned in the white paper represents a remarkable shift in the EU’s willingness to draw a hard line on its use.

Thierry Breton holding a sign © Provided by Quartz

Last month, a draft white paper revealed that Europe was weighing a temporary five-year ban on facial recognition, a move that was praised by digital rights advocates but decried by the security community. That ban no longer appears in the final draft. FT reported this week that the ban was removed from later drafts due to fears that it would stifle innovation and compromise national security.

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Facial recognition has emerged as a hot-button issue as the EU prepares to outline its plans to regulate artificial intelligence next month. In a January draft of the upcoming paper on AI , the EU ’ s executive body said any new regulations would target high-risk applications, such as predictive

The news: The European Commission is considering a ban of facial recognition in public places for up to five years, with exceptions for research and security The background: Activists on both sides of the Atlantic have been concerned about facial recognition , saying that the technology isn’t accurate

Instead, the non-binding document lays out a definition for “high-risk” AI applications that can interfere with people’s rights, such as those used in the fields of employment, transportation, healthcare, and law enforcement. Those tools, it proposes, should go through extra testing, certification, and human oversight.

A person’s face often reveals their race and gender, which is why facial recognition is an obvious candidate for both racial and gender-based discrimination. While the white paper imposes no new restrictions on facial recognition, it lays the groundwork for laws that the EU expects to pass later this year.

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One solution suggested by the white paper would require that training data used by AI vendors come from the local European population, better reflecting its demographic diversity. Training data that disproportionately contains white males is one of ways that facial recognition has proven to introduce bias against women and people of color. But Joseph Halpern, a computer science professor at Cornell University, thinks that training data is only a very small part of the problem.

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Facial recognition artificial intelligence has sparked a global debate about the pros and cons of a technology widely used by law enforcement agencies Microsoft President Brad Smith has said that a facial recognition AI ban is akin to using a cleaver instead of a scalpel to solve potential problems

San Francisco did it in May. Somerville, Massachusetts, in June. And on Tuesday evening, Oakland, California, became the latest to ban city departments — including police — from using facial - recognition technology.

“It is well known there are problems with facial recognition algorithms due to bad training sets. But I’m concerned that, although the EU data set might deal with the known problems, who knows what other biases it might introduce,” wrote Halpern in an email to Quartz. Halpern would prefer a clear statement of an algorithm’s expectations, along with penalties for if those expectations aren’t met.

Citizens should also get a clear warning of when facial recognition may be used, he says. While the the proposal suggests a “trustworthy” AI certification that would ask for compliance in low-risk uses, it doesn’t impose the same demands on law enforcement. “The problem that I suspect most people have with the Chinese use of facial recognition on the Uighur population is not that it misidentifies people; rather, it’s that it identifies people all too well,” wrote Halpern.

A robot equipped with an artificial intelligence device is seen at the AI Xperience Center at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) in Brussels, Belgium February 19, 2020.  REUTERS/Yves Herman © Thomson Reuters A robot equipped with an artificial intelligence device is seen at the AI Xperience Center at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) in Brussels, Belgium February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Automated facial recognition in public spaces, without a person’s consent, has emerged as a point of controversy in Europe. Germany is planning on installing automated facial recognition cameras in train stations and airports, despite opposition from civil liberties groups. European Commission Vice-President for Digital Margrethe Vestager acknowledged this week that while such technology is in violation of GDPR rules, there are exceptions for public security. But critics warn that such a loophole gives governments the freedom to install Orwellian-style surveillance technology in public spaces.

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“We’re glad the EU report acknowledges that facial recognition, when deployed in public spaces, poses a threat to fundamental rights and to the GDPR,” wrote Amba Kak, director of the AI Now Institute at NYU, in an email to Quartz. “But it stops short of prescribing any hard limits, instead recommending ‘broad European debate’ on the topic. It’s urgent for the Commission to take leadership on drawing red lines around facial recognition, particularly contending with the issue of concentrated power and the harms this technology presents to civil society,”

Stephanie Hare, an AI ethics researcher who advocated for a temporary ban on facial recognition before the EU Parliament last year, calls its omission from the white paper “disappointing.” Without a blanket ban, individual member nations will be responsible for regulating facial recognition. And European countries have varied in their views about the ethics and legality of the technology. 

20 February 2020, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Tübingen: Margrethe Vestager, acting EU Vice President and EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs, looks at a 3D scan of her during a visit to the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. The institute is part of the so-called Cyber Valley. The topic is the further promotion of Baden-Württemberg as a location for artificial intelligence as a focal point. Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/dpa (Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images) © Copyright 2020, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten 20 February 2020, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Tübingen: Margrethe Vestager, acting EU Vice President and EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs, looks at a 3D scan of her during a visit to the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. The institute is part of the so-called Cyber Valley. The topic is the further promotion of Baden-Württemberg as a location for artificial intelligence as a focal point. Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/dpa (Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Sweden’s Data Protection Authority, for example, has allowed for the use of facial recognition to identify criminal suspects but has blocked its use in schools. France is using facial recognition in AliceM, its mandatory national ID program, which is currently being challenged by a privacy group in the nation’s highest court. 

“In sum, the EU is allowing a free for all on live facial recognition technology,” wrote Hare in an email to Quartz, “when it could have shown leadership.”

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