The threat that this technology poses to the right of assembly, the right to strike and the right to organise is simply unacceptable.
A group of human, digital and civil rights organisations has issued a statement calling for the ban of biometric surveillance. More than 175 organisations have already signed the open letter.
The open letter calls for an outright ban on facial recognition and remote biometric recognition software applications used for mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance. These technologies undermine human rights, including the right to free assembly and association and the rights to equality and non-discrimination. The technologies in question include the use of facial and biometric classification, which make predictions about people’s gender, emotions, or other personal attributes and are highly unreliable and discriminative. Workers are often subject to those practices and a robust regulatory framework is needed to protect them from unjust treatment and discrimination.
As the open letter points out: “as long as people in publicly accessible spaces can be instantaneously identified, singled out or tracked, their human rights and civil liberties will be undermined.” The call therefore demands the prohibition of these technologies for surveillance of public and publicly accessible spaces, by or on behalf of all public authorities at all levels. It further demands the prohibition of the use of these technologies by private entities in public and publicly accessible spaces, including schools, housing developments and the workplace. The individual should be protected against the use of these technologies and the information from them shall be excluded as evidence to criminally prosecute people.
Private companies must recognise the dangers of facial recognition and remote biometric recognition software. The initiative therefore calls on private companies “to issue transparency reports that detail all their public contracts (...) for the provision of these technologies; (...) and refrain from retaliating against workers that organise in their workplaces to challenge or refuse the development of facial recognition and remote biometric technologies that enable mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance.”
The European Commission plans to ban real-time remote biometric identification only for law enforcement purposes in publicly accessible spaces, and with exceptions. This is not sufficient, as the risk of human rights infringements and of the intrusion into peoples’ private lives, especially through non-state actors, remains. An outright ban of any such technology should be enshrined in the upcoming EU legislation on AI.
“IndustriAll Europe has decided to sign the open letter because workers are often subject to highly unreliable surveillance technology without being provided with meaningful tools to assess that technology, and to challenge its outcome. The bias inherent in these systems discriminates against large groups of people and any hypothetical benefit is outweighed by the threat of permanent surveillance and the violation of fundamental and civil rights.
“The threat that this technology poses to the right of assembly, the right to strike and the right to organise is simply unacceptable. We need a strong regulatory framework that prohibits the use of facial recognition and remote biometric recognition technology used for mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance by both public and private actors.”
The open letter can be signed by organisations and individuals here.