Artificial Intelligence: Parliament stops mass surveillance but important safeguards still missing
Today, the European Parliament voted on the landmark Artificial Intelligence Act. This legislation is the first of its kind, the first in the world.
The European Parliament secured an essential win in preventing mass surveillance through remote biometric facial recognition.
“Progressive forces successfully defended the ban on facial recognition in public spaces. Mass surveillance of EU citizens, as wanted by the EPP, is now off the table for the time being. This is a historic and great success. We will have to wait and see whether this ban survives the negotiations with the Council. Conservative governments in particular want to give police and security services much more power and control over the population, loosely based on the Chinese model,” said Cornelia Ernst (die Linke).
However, from the outset, the Left had concerns about the Parliament’s approach to risk assessment. “The risk-based regulatory approach was extremely weakened in the negotiations and the bar to classify an AI system as a risk to fundamental rights, security or health is therefore unfortunately very high. This is definitely not ambitious enough for a European Parliament position,” Ernst continued.
In view of the disruptive effects that AI can have not only on individuals, but on society as a whole, the Left proposed that the AI Act should be governed by a precautionary principle. Using a preventative approach this would mean identifying and assessing potential risks including unintended consequences and taking protective action before there is complete scientific proof of a risk, similar to how the EU regulates chemicals.
“Unfortunately, the European Parliament has failed to produce sufficient rules on artificial intelligence. Dangerous uses of AI technologies continue to be allowed and uses which present a great risk to health, safety or fundamental freedoms of EU citizens remain without necessary safeguards. The absence of the precautionary principle puts us all in danger and overshadows the positives that the proposal brings. With this in mind I could not support the proposal,” explains Left MEP Kateřina Konečná (KSČM, Czechia).
The Parliament rejected The Left proposal to secure a ban on the use of AI in migration. AI systems are increasingly a feature of the EU’s approach to migration. It poses myriad risks for people on the move. According to Border Violence Monitoring Network, AI technologies are already being used in push-backs and forced disappearances at the EU’s external borders.
The next step will be for the European Parliament to enter into negotiations with the Council. Trilogue negotiations are due to begin tonight.
To find out more about what’s at stake, watch our video.