EU data protection bodies call for ban on use of AI for automated recognition of human features in public spaces

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) have issued a joint opinion on the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on artificial intelligence (AI). In the opinion, the two EU data protection bodies call for a general ban on the use of AI for automated recognition of human features in publicly available spaces, such as recognition of faces, gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes, and other biometric or behavioural signals, in any context. They also recommend a ban on AI systems that use biometrics to categorise individuals based on ethnicity, gender, political or sexual orientation, or other grounds on which discrimination is prohibited under the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Moreover, the EDPB and the EDPS consider that the use of AI to infer emotions of a person should be prohibited, except for very specific cases such as health purposes where the patient’s emotion recognition is important. On other issues, the two bodies find it concerning that international law enforcement cooperation is excluded from the scope of the proposed regulation. While welcoming the risk-based approach at the core of the proposal, they are also of the view that societal risks for groups of individuals should be assessed and mitigated as well.