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Facial Recognition, Other ‘Risky’ AI Set for Constraints in EU

  • Companies could be hit with fines of up to 6% of revenue
  • Risky AI applications to undergo audits before deployment
Tests On Facial Recognition Technology Begun At Berlin Suedkreuz

Photographer: Steffi Loos/Getty Images

Facial recognition and other high-risk artificial intelligence applications will face strict constraints under new rules unveiled by the European Union that threaten hefty fines for companies that don’t comply.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, proposed measures on Wednesday that would ban certain AI applications in the EU, including those that exploit vulnerable groups, deploy subliminal techniques or score people’s social behavior.

The use of facial recognition and other real-time remote biometric identification systems by law enforcement would also be prohibited, unless used to prevent a terror attack, find missing children or tackle other public security emergencies.

Facial recognition is a particularly controversial form of AI. Civil liberties groups warn of the dangers of discrimination or mistaken identities when law enforcement uses the technology, which sometimes misidentifies women and people with darker skin tones. Digital rights group EDRI has warned against loopholes for public security exceptions use of the technology.

Other high-risk applications that could endanger people’s safety or legal status—such as self-driving cars, employment or asylum decisions -- would have to undergo checks of their systems before deployment and face other strict obligations.

The measures are the latest attempt by the bloc to leverage the power of its vast, developed market to set global standards that companies around the world are forced to follow, much like with its General Data Protection Regulation.

The U.S. and China are home to the biggest commercial AI companies -- Google and Microsoft Corp., Beijing-based Baidu, and Shenzhen-based Tencent -- but if they want to sell to Europe’s consumers or businesses, they may be forced to overhaul operations.