, November 30, 2021

Scholz government supports ethical AI with facial recognition ban


  •   3 min reads
Scholz government supports ethical AI with facial recognition ban

The new German government to be headed by Olaf Scholz is supporting ethical AI standards and banning facial recognition in public spaces.

While the US and China fight for AI supremacy, the EU thinks it has found itself a unique selling point. In part because of its 20th-century history, in which, during certain periods, citizens found themselves under the close scrutiny of authorities, the EU prioritizes privacy perhaps more than in other regions. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is widely acknowledged as a trailblazer in privacy regulation worldwide.

However, there is more to the EU's emphasis on privacy than a freedom-loving culture still reeling from some of the 20th century's excess; there are also commercial benefits. The argument goes like this: trust is becoming a vital commodity; in the long term, companies and organisations that can engender trust amongst their customers will see a commercial benefit. The EU, then, sees an opportunity to create a European trust-based ecosystem that can ultimately become the envy of the world.

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This takes us to AI and the issue of ethical AI.

The EU's AI regulation, currently at the draft stage, is not exactly GDPR 2.0, but it clearly draws on the ideas implicit in GDPR to create regulations for AI. It won't replace GDPR; after all, AI requires data, and GDPR covers data protection, but it does provide an extra level of privacy considerations.

One of the more contention ideas in the EU AI regulation relates to facial recognition. In June 2021, the European Parliament voted to ban facial recognition in public spaces unless the technology is used to fight serious crime.

But then, what is a serious crime?

Is it a serious crime to say something negative about the government? Once we start allowing exceptions on the banning of facial recognition, then we see a grey area, and grey areas can expand.

The new German government, combining a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals and led by Olaf Scholz, the new German chancellor, has made it clear where it stands.

It wants to ban facial recognition in all public spaces — no exceptions.

Maybe the new German government is leading us away from a dystopian AI world.

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