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Paris Olympics 2024: A New Era of AI and Biometric Surveillance

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There is – and not just the obvious, either – a link between the previous Tokyo Olympics, and the event now coming up, to be held in Paris.

In 2020, the Tokyo Games were postponed because of the pandemic.

The pandemic, justifiably or not, with measures adopted by various governments and organizations around the world, threw people’s lives for a loop, and the Olympics were no exception.

Yet one of the most “teachable moments” that has thus far emerged from the Covid era is that the situation was often used as a very convenient excuse to introduce a plethora of new mass surveillance policies and technologies.

Those based on AI and biometric data feature most prominently. For large sporting and other venues and events, these had been waiting in the wings for a while, but the pandemic truly gave them a “booster dose” as far as public policy, and even opinion, is concerned.

And now, with the looming Paris Games, we’re seeing the seeds sown during the pandemic continuing to grow, and slowly overtake the figurative ground.

Reports are now saying that the Paris Olympics organizers have completed the second AI surveillance test of large crowds. The very fact these are tests tells us the measures are new – but why they are deemed necessary right now is not made very clear.

Nevertheless, the reality is that the French authorities have decided to deploy this type of surveillance (“body scanners – not facial recognition” – apparently.)

And that’s despite the opponents of the scheme saying it can enable mission creep to cripple protests – something the French public is prone to, but something the French government is generally positively petrified of.

But back to the Olympics. The French police, as well as two major transport companies, SNCF (rail) and RATP, have now tested the surveillance tech.

They used two events – a big French football league game in Paris and a Black Eyed Peas concert as “test cases.”

What they did was “access images from 100 cameras,” said the country’s TF1 broadcaster.

Media outlets had this to say: “Videtics, Orange Business, ChapsVision and Wintics” are the companies involved, while what got flagged are “crowd surges, abnormally heavy crowds, abandoned objects, presence or use of weapons, a person on the ground, fire and contravening traffic direction rules.”

And now for, well, something positive: “Signs and posters had been installed at the entrances and exits of the trial areas to warn users,” TF1 said.

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