February 5, 2023

PARIS — The French data protection authority’s president Marie-Laure Denis warned Tuesday against using facial recognition as part of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics security toolkit.

“The members of the CNIL’s college call on parliamentarians not to introduce facial recognition, that is to say the identification of people on the fly in the public space,” she told Franceinfo.

The French government is seeking to ramp up France’s arsenal of surveillance powers to ensure the safety of the millions of tourists expected for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. The plans include AI-powered cameras for the first time — but not facial recognition.

The Senate’s plenary session starts to vote today on the law introducing the new powers. Senators are divided between those who want to add privacy safeguards and those who want to push the surveillance and security arsenal further, mainly by introducing facial recognition.

“The amendment [to include facial recognition] was rejected in the Senate’s law committee, but it can come back [in the plenary session],” the CNIL’s chief cautioned.

Civil liberties NGOs such as La Quadrature du Net and the Human Rights League are currently campaigning against the experimental AI-powered surveillance cameras. Denis however tried to assuage concerns.

The CNIL will monitor algorithmic training to ensure there is no bias and that footage of people is deleted in due time, she said. The experiment will “not necessarily” become permanent, she added.


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