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  • Voltaire Staff

EU's AI Act going to pave way for China-like mass surveillance: Official

A digital freedom fighter and Member of the European Parliament has apprehended concerns that the recently agreed upon draft AI Act will introduce biometric mass surveillance across Europe similar to one exercised by China.

Lawmakers last year provisionally agreed on the draft Artificial Intelligence Act that aims to ensure that fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law and environment are protected from high risk AI.

“With this AI law, it appears the EU intends to compete with China not only technologically but also in terms of high-tech repression," Patrick Beyer warned in a statement on Tuesday.


"The fact that error-prone facial recognition applied to CCTV recordings is being green-lighted for petty offences falls short of the EU Parliament’s own press release. This will make it possible for cities to oust homeless people under the heading of ‘trespassing’, as happened in Como, Italy, or to prosecute sprayers for ‘damaging property’.


"Even the highly controversial facial recognition among demonstrators, such as after the G20 summit in Hamburg, is not being excluded. On the basis of these rules, facial recognition and chilling effect that comes with it, threatens to become a standard instrument in Europe, too," he said.

China imposes obligations on service providers, technical supporters, and users, as well as certain other entities, including online platforms when it comes to AI-generated content, ostensibly to protect national and social security in the People Republic of China (PRC).


In April 2021, the European Commission suggested the initial rules for AI in the EU to improve how AI is developed and used.


If approved, these would be the first-ever global regulations on AI.


Negotiators have agreed on specific protections and limited allowances for the use of biometric ID systems in public areas by law enforcement. This is only allowed with court approval and for well-defined types of crimes. The regulations set responsibilities for providers and users of AI on the basis of level of risk involved. Even if some AI systems have low risk, they still need to be evaluated.

European policy makers have agreed on creating a risk-based approach for regulating AI, dividing them between unacceptable, high, and limited risk AI systems.

Beyer said, "The EU’s AI Act even opens the door to permanent facial surveillance in real time: Over 6,000 people are wanted by European arrest warrant for the offences listed in the AI Act. Any public space in Europe can therefore be placed under permanent biometric mass surveillance on these grounds.

"This law legitimises and normalises a culture of mistrust. It leads Europe into a dystopian future of a mistrustful high-tech surveillance state."

Once the rules get effective, which will be within two years giving countries in the EU time to make the new rules part of their own laws, If companies don't follow the rules, they might face penalties of up to 7 per cent of their global earnings or 35 million euros, whichever is more.


The AI Act is part of a group of laws in the EU, including the Digital Markets Act, Digital Services Act, Data Governance Act, and Data Act. The Law sets a global benchmark for other countries seeking to regulate AI. Currently, there aren’t any specific laws in India with regard to AI regulation.


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