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France plots unprecedented AI surveillance for 2024 Olympics

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French lawmakers passed legislation allowing the use of new AI technologies to monitor the public using cameras during the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The event will be used as a test for AI-powered mass video surveillance.

The French government insists that it will not use facial recognition to monitor and track the public. Instead, automated systems will analyze the footage for suspicious activity like suspicious items, abandoned bags, and unusual crowd movements.

Proponents of the legislation argue that it is needed to protect the millions of tourists who will visit Paris next summer for the games.

The use of the technology was approved until December, so it will cover the Rugby World Cup. It was initially drafted to run until June 2025.

Some pushback against the proposals, mostly from left-wing members of the European Parliament, has come in the form of an open letter questioning mass surveillance tactics.

We obtained a copy of the letter for you here.

“France would set a surveillance precedent of the kind never before seen in Europe, using the pretext of the Olympic games. Article 7 of the text will provide a legal basis for the use of cameras equipped with algorithms to detect specific suspicious events in the public space,” the letter states.

“In the European Parliament 2021 Report on artificial intelligence in criminal law and its use by the police and judicial authorities in criminal matters, precursor to the AI Act, we called among other things for ‘the permanent prohibition of the use of automated analysis … of human features … and other biometric and behavioural signals.’ The relevant regulation is currently being negotiated. There is a majority in the European Parliament in favour of a strong ban of biometric mass surveillance in the AI Act. By pushing to swiftly pass a law to enable automated analysis of human behavioural signals despite the EU process currently under way, France is undermining the scrutiny and democracy role of the European Parliament. Article 7 of the Olympic and Paralympic Games law risks clashing with the EU’s AI Act.”

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