EU considers a five-year ban on facial recognition

An 18-page report proposes putting the tech on hold while regulation is worked out

Microsoft facial recognition

The European Commission is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces, according to reports. 

It wants to suspend use of the technology for up to five years while it works out how best to regulate it, according to an 18-page document seen by the BBC

The commission has argued that new legislation is needed to bolster existing regulation for data and privacy protections. Unlike San Franciso authorities, which banned the technology outright after being deemed "uniquely dangerous and oppressive", the report suggests putting its use on hold while more work is done to assess the possible effects of the technology.

If it goes ahead, the ban could last between three and five years to give the EC time to weigh up "a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed".

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The commission has also suggested that additional obligations may be placed on developers as part of the review process, and has urged EU countries to create an authority to monitor new rules.

The Commission's report is similar to proposals from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office which began investigating police use of the technology in 2018. Almost a year later, the regulator demanded police "curb" its usage to allow a code of practice to be established.

The Home Office and the UK police continued to use facial recognition technology throughout 2019, despite reports of its inaccuracy. According to civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, a Met trial at the 2018 Notting Hill Carnival misidentified 95 people as criminals.

In a seperate investigation, the ICO examined the use of facial recognition at a privately owned site at Kings Cross. The regulator warned that businesses using the surveillance technology needed to demonstrate its use was "strictly necessary and proportionate" and that it had a legal basis.

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