How to ensure fundamental rights when using face recognition?

CCTV. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The EU is debating whether to allow Member States to use face recognition software that would make it possible to keep tabs on people in real time. Estonia will only back the plan if fundamental rights are ensured.

Face recognition software has seen public use for years in China and the U.K. for example. The European Parliament voted against the change in June, while Member States must shape their own positions.

Estonian MEPs do not share a common position on the use of face recognition. Andrus Ansip (ALDE/Reform Party) is in favor of the initiative.

"If we are talking about finding a terrorist, if we know that a bomb is about to go off and need to find the person wearing it... Or if a child has been kidnapped, we know the child's face and that of their kidnapper, to track them down as quickly as possible," Ansip said.

Jaak Madison (ID/EKRE) does not consider the plan sensible and believes it would infringe on the right to private life and privacy.

"The problem is that in order to locate kidnapped children or missing people, we would have to analyze every facial profile in the database to pick them out from tens of thousands or even millions of people," Madison remarked.

The conservative MEP is also against introducing exceptions. "The question is what would those exceptions be, and whether one exception would then lead to the next etc. I remain quite skeptical today. Unless I'm shown very clearly how a rare exception could minimize the invasion of privacy, right to private life and secrecy, I am also not in favor of having exceptions.

Andrus Ansip said that banning artificial intelligence would end corresponding investments in Europe.

"No investments would mean no development. Until we will once again ask, as we have many times before, why the Americans have Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, as well as face recognition systems they can use to apprehend dangerous criminals, while he have none of those things in Europe," the MEP said.

Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform) said that technological development should not be opposed, while all possibilities offered by artificial intelligence should have legal frames.

"Looking at the Penal Code, serious offenses against persons, severe crime or offenses against the state regarding which we could allow more intensive infringement of basic rights in terms of entering people's private spheres," Laanet said.

The justice minister said that there has not been a public debate on this topic in Estonia yet, adding that all ways in which AI can be used should be detailed on the level of legislation.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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