The French government is currently under fire after announcing a proposal to use artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted video surveillance ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Senate in late January voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would allow it to be used at the event.
Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra thanked the senators for quickly adopting the text on Twitter, stating that it “will promote the best possible organization of the Paris 2024 Games”.
The legislation includes plans to use artificial intelligence to detect, for the first time in France, suspicious body language or crowd movements through CCTV cameras and drones. This information is then sent directly to the police.
Artificial intelligence could also be used in stadiums, on the streets and on public transport. The bill states that the cameras can be used as an experiment until June 2025 during sporting, holiday or cultural events.
“The scope of this law is worrying as it goes well beyond the Olympics – to June 2025,” said Katia Roux, technology advocacy officer at Amnesty International.
“For years we have seen French authorities trying to expand the police’s surveillance power and we fear these Olympics could be used as an excuse to do so,” he said in an interview with RockedBuzz via Euronews Next.
The plan comes as the nation tries to avoid repeating the chaos seen during the Champions League final at the Stade de France in 2022. Many fans have been attacked or assaulted in the stadium.
But for human rights groups, this bill is intrusive and a danger to human freedom.
Targeting specific groups or the right to privacy
“We fear this could be used to target specific groups and would violate the right to privacy and peaceful assembly,” said Katia Roux, technology advocacy officer at Amnesty International.
“Mistakes or prejudices are to be feared, and one may actually ask what is abnormal or normal behavior? To date, the effectiveness of such technology in the fight against crime and terrorism has not been proven at all,” he said.
For years we’ve seen French authorities try to expand the police’s surveillance power and we fear these Olympics could be used as an excuse to do so.
The French government has stressed that the bill will not include facial recognition technology.
Authorities also say it would greatly help police keep crowds safe as the capital is expected to welcome 13 million people for the Olympics.
“The problem is the use of biometric data. Even if there is no facial recognition, the analysis of the behavior and movement of individuals is still biometric because it is sensitive data that should be protected,” explained Maryse Artiguelong , data and privacy specialist at the Human Rights League (LDH).
“When you move, you have a particular way of moving that might identify you,” he told RockedBuzz via Euronews Next.
Amnesty International and other digital rights groups believe that if this bill is passed, it could pave the way for more invasive surveillance technologies in the country.
“We may fear that facial recognition could be the next step,” Roux said.
“We saw this with Russia when they started facial recognition for the World Cup. Now, a few years later, the technology is being used to arrest peaceful protesters,” he explained.
Will this mean that France will enter a new era of Big Brother? The bill has not yet been approved but will be considered by the National Assembly in February.