French lawmakers said “oui” to broad uses of AI-powered surveillance.
What’s new: France’s National Assembly authorized authorities to test systems that detect unlawful, dangerous, or unusual behavior at next year’s Summer Olympics in Paris, Reuters reported. The bill will become law unless the country’s top court blocks it.
How it works: The bill is part of broader legislation that regulates Olympic advertising, doping, and the route run by torch bearers.
- The French data-privacy regulator will process video feeds from closed-circuit cameras and drones “on an experimental basis” at sporting, recreational, and cultural events until June 30, 2025.
- The system will send alerts upon detecting certain predetermined events. Lawmakers said the technology will monitor crowds for threats such as surges, abnormal behavior, and abandoned luggage.
- The system won’t include face recognition, collect biometric data, or query biometric information systems.
Behind the news: Technology that collects biometric data would be subject to strict monitoring and reporting requirements under the current draft of the European Union’s forthcoming AI Act, which is scheduled for a vote in May. If it passes, the European Parliament, European Council, and European Commission will negotiate a final version.
Yes, but: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and 36 other nongovernmental organizations signed a letter opposing the French bill. The signatories contend that analyzing the behavior of individuals in a crowd requires collecting personal biometric data, although French authorities deny it.
Why it matters: France’s move is emblematic of broader tension between AI’s value in security applications and its potential for harm. If the bill clears legal hurdles, France will become the first EU country to formally legalize AI-powered surveillance.
We’re thinking: AI has great potential in crowd control. Engineers working on such applications should keep in mind that computer vision systems can be compromised by fluctuations in lighting, changes in physical surroundings, and the complexities of group behavior.