French lawmakers have agreed to use artificial intelligence to monitor public spaces for suspicious behaviour during the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
On Thursday, the parliament approved a plan to use automated behavioural surveillance of public spaces during the games, ignoring objections from around 40 MPs who had penned an open letter denouncing the proposal.
The 2024 Olympic Games will be held in Paris from July 26 to August 11.
The EU’s AI Act, an upcoming risk-based framework for regulating AI includes a prohibition on the use of real-time’ remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces for law enforcement — with exceptions allowed for searches of specific potential victims of crime (such as missing children); for the prevention of “a specific, substantial and imminent threat” to life or physical safety or a terrorist attack; or for identifying a specific perpetrator or suspect of a criminal offence
Critics argue that the French plan goes far beyond the limited law enforcement exceptions allowed in the draught proposal, relying on unproven AI to identify something as hazy as suspicious behaviour.
In a statement, Patrick Breyer, an MEP with the Pirate Party in the European Parliament, slammed the use of “error-prone” and intrusive technology, saying: “The French Parliament‘s decision to authorise automated behavioural surveillance in public spaces to look for ‘abnormal behavior’ creates a new reality of mass surveillance that is unprecedented in Europe. I expect the court to annul this indiscriminate surveillance legislation for violating our fundamental rights,”
The European Commission proposed the AI Act nearly two years ago, but it is still being negotiated.
The European Commission proposed the AI Act almost two years ago, but it is still being negotiated by the bloc’s institutions — with discussions on the file complicated by divisions and ongoing technological developments, such as the rise of general purpose AIs like OpenAI’s GPT-4.
The French government’s plan to use AI-powered surveillance in the Paris Olympics in may still face a constitutional challenge in the country’s highest court. So it remains to be seen whether attendees at the 2024 Summer Olympics will be subjected to behavioural analysis by algorithms.
In recent months, France’s data protection watchdog, the CNIL, has increased its focus on artificial intelligence, establishing a dedicated department to work on the technology in January in preparation for the upcoming EU AI Act.