France: Allowing mass surveillance at Olympics undermines EU efforts to regulate AI

Mar. 23, 2023

Responding to the French National Assembly’s decision to permit the use of mass video surveillance technology powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) during the 2024 Olympics, Mher Hakobyan, Amnesty International’s Advocacy Advisor on AI Regulation, said:

“France’s decision to allow the use of mass surveillance measures during the 2024 Olympics undermines the EU’s ongoing efforts to regulate AI and protect fundamental rights through the AI Act. This decision, which legalizes the use of AI-powered surveillance for the first time in France and the EU, risks permanently transforming France into a dystopian surveillance state, and allowing large-scale violations of human rights elsewhere in the bloc.

“While France promotes itself as a champion of human rights globally, its decision to legalize AI-powered mass surveillance during the Olympics will lead to an all-out assault on the rights to privacy, protest, and freedom of assembly and expression. It has also been well-documented that hostile surveillance technologies are disproportionately used to target marginalized groups, including migrants and black and brown people.

“As an influential member state of the EU, France is setting a worrying precedent at a time when the bloc should be focusing on cementing rights protections in the AI Act. The European Parliament must urgently take a strong position on banning mass surveillance technologies, including remote biometric identification and categorization in public spaces.”

Background: 

The text of the bill was approved by the Senate on 31 January and cleared a legislative hurdle on March 8 after the committee vote. The French National Assembly adopted article 7 that allows the use of AI-powered video surveillance on March 23.

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Amnesty International, alongside a coalition of civil society organizations led by the European Digital Rights Network (EDRi), has been calling for the EU to regulate Artificial Intelligence as part of efforts to protect and promote human rights.

In an open letter initiated by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, 38 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International, have called on French policymakers to reject the draft legislation on allowing invasive surveillance at the 2024 Olympics.

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