EU Softens Stance On 5-Year Ban Of Facial Recognition Tech


The European Union won’t be passing a blanket moratorium on facial recognition software after initially signaling that it would do so.

Instead, it plans to leave the responsibility to member states. That decision has faced backlash from privacy advocates, who say civil liberties could be at risk from facial recognition due to its potential for inaccuracy.

The European Commission has drafted a paper on those concerns, saying that the technology could be used to break privacy laws and commit identity theft. The paper initially recommended that Brussels pass a moratorium on use of facial recognition for several years while studies and tests were done to try and make it more accurate.

Now, however, that recommendation has been nixed.

The paper instead wants individual EU states to decide when and how to implement facial recognition techniques, which could involve independent bodies analyzing specific uses of the technology to assess the merits.

An earlier draft of the paper from last December warned that banning the technology could have adverse effects on its development, preventing new innovations. And large companies like Google parent Alphabet have been wary of the EU’s resistance to facial recognition.

Regulators and official bodies across the globe are trying to establish clarity and a doctrine on facial recognition, which has been met with scrutiny and criticism when it falters. In the U.S., cities like San Francisco have passed limited-time bans on the use of the tech, and U.K. courts have seen challenges to its use, although in the U.K. it was passed for use last month.

Sweden’s data protection authority issued a fine against a high school for improper use of the facial recognition technology, its first one issued.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of the EU’s data policy, has said more funding is needed to properly execute the EU’s policy on artificial intelligence and other new technologies. She told The Financial Times last month that the funding was needed because member states were not spending enough on facial recognition tech.