Lawmakers pass Paris Olympics law amid surveillance fears

PARIS – A French bill for the 2024 Paris Olympics that critics say will open the door to anti-privacy video surveillance technology in France and elsewhere in Europe faces a significant hurdle on Tuesday, with lawmakers set to vote on this subject.

The bill would legalize the temporary use of so-called intelligent surveillance systems to protect the Paris Games, which will take place from July 26 to August 26 next year. 11, and the Paralympics that follow. The systems combine cameras with artificial intelligence software to flag potential security issues, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges. Human operators would decide if action is needed.

French authorities insist the surveillance would not involve facial recognition. Proponents of the bill argue the technology could help avert disasters like the deadly crowd crush that killed nearly 160 people during South Korea’s Halloween festivities in October.

“It’s not about acknowledging ‘Mr. X’ in a crowd,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told members of the National Assembly last week as they debated the measures. “It’s about recognizing the situations.”

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill in January, by 245 votes to 28. If the National Assembly follows suit on Tuesday afternoon, the bill would still have to be fine-tuned by members of the Assembly and senators before its final adoption, scheduled for April.

Digital rights watchdog groups say France will violate international human rights law by becoming the first of 27 European Union countries to legalize AI-powered surveillance, even if only temporarily. The bill says the technology can be used on an experimental basis until the end of 2024 to protect sporting and cultural events in France that are particularly at risk of being targeted by terrorist attacks.

The use of the technology “risks permanently transforming France into a dystopian surveillance state” and “will lead to an all-out attack on the rights to privacy, to protest and to freedom of assembly and expression”, said Mher Hakobyan, AI adviser to Amnesty International. regulation.

“It has also been well documented that hostile surveillance technologies are disproportionately used to target marginalized groups, including migrants and black and brown people,” Hakobyan added.

Even though the bill says the cameras won’t use facial recognition, they’re still likely to examine physical features, including people’s postures, walks and gestures, critics say. Opponents also fear the technology will focus on people who spend a lot of time in public spaces, such as the homeless. The bill also paves the way for the technology to be used with cameras mounted on drones.

During discussions last week in the National Assembly on the bill, opposition MP Sandra Regol argued that it would turn Olympic visitors into “guinea pigs” for AI-powered surveillance.


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