The Senate wants to create a European controller of the reliability of facial recognition algorithms

Senators Marc-Philippe Daubresse (Union for a Popular Movement), Arnaud de Belenet (Centrist Union) and Jérôme Durain (Socialist, Ecologist and Republican Group) presented on May 11 the results of a report on the use of biometric recognition in public space.

The spectrum of mass surveillance

It is essential to build a collective response to the use of biometric recognition technologies so as not to be overtaken by industrial developments in the years to come.“, they note beforehand. To answer this problem, they made 30 proposals for “remove the risk of a surveillance company“.

The uses of facial recognition are potentially limitless. But, currently, French law only authorizes a few in very specific contexts: the device of reconciliation by photograph operated in the Processing of criminal records (TAJ) and the border crossing system “Parafe”. Several experiments – by the City of Nice or Paris airports – also took place.

The authors of the report are still surprised that today there is no general regulation to regulate facial recognition. Certain provisions are provided for in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when it addresses the protection of biometric data. Otherwise, these are specific texts which authorize recourse to recognition in a very specific case, as is the case for the TAJ.

Four prohibitions in the use of facial recognition

Faced with this observation, they first propose to develop a framework including “red lines” to eliminate the risk of mass surveillance. Four prohibitions must therefore be introduced: the prohibition of social rating, the categorization of individuals according to ethnic origin, sex or sexual orientation ( except for scientific research), emotion analysis (except for health and research purposes) and real-time remote biometric monitoring in public areas (except for security forces in very limited cases).

To determine the use cases where this technology could be relevant, the report recommends the adoption of an experimentation law lasting three years. The government and Parliament would thus be obliged to reassess the need and reframe the system according to the results obtained. For their part, the French should be able to benefit from a “clear information on biometric recognition techniques, the expected benefits and the risks involved“.

In addition, the use of recognition should be authorized a priori, by a magistrate or a prefect when it comes to internal security forces, and by the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (Cnil) when it it is a private entity.

Prefer algorithms developed in Europe

For the rapporteurs, technological sovereignty must be at the heart of the reflection on facial recognition. In effect, “the use of algorithms developed in Europe, from traceable data hosted on our soil is for example much preferable to the use of foreign algorithms of which we sometimes know nothing of the conditions of creation and training“.

To strengthen sovereignty, the senators recommend entrusting to a European authority “the mission to assess the reliability of biometric recognition algorithms and certify their absence of bias“. The European Union seems to be in favor of this system since it proposes a similar one in its future regulations on artificial intelligence, part of which focuses on facial recognition. Only problem: companies will have to agree to open the hood of their technology in order to certify that it is reliable. This poses problems relating to intellectual property, which is particularly important in this sector.

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The Senate wants to create a European controller of the reliability of facial recognition algorithms


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