European Commission registers citizens’ initiative calling for ban on biometric mass surveillance

The European Commission has registered a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) entitled ‘Civil society initiative for a ban on biometric mass surveillance practices’, proposed by the organisers of the Reclaim Your Face Campaign launched in late 2020 (including organisations such as Access Now, Article 19, EDRi, and Privacy International). The initiative urges the commission to propose a legal act that would strictly regulate the use of biometric technologies (such as facial recognition technology) to avoid undue interference with fundamental rights. The commission is asked in particular to prohibit indiscriminate and arbitrarily-targeted uses of biometric data in ways which can lead to unlawful mass surveillance, and ensure that such intrusive systems are not developed, deployed, or used by public or public entities insofar as they can lead to unnecessary or disproportionate interference with people’s fundamental rights. The organisers of the initiative will now start collecting signatures of support. If the initiative receives one million statements of support within a year from at least seven different member states, the commission will have to react within six months. It could decide to either follow the request or not, and explain the reasoning for its decision.