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EU reportedly wants strict limits for 'indiscriminate' facial recognition

Europe could introduce sweeping reforms governing how facial recognition technology can be used.

Pixelated image of commuters making their way to work

The EU could soon regulate facial recognition.

Getty Images

The European Commission is reportedly considering sweeping reforms to facial recognition regulation to protect citizens from public surveillance, said the Financial Times on Thursday.

Quoting an EU official, the newspaper said new legislation could limit "the indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology." European citizens would be given powers to "know when [facial recognition] data is used."

The Commission didn't comment directly on the plans, but a spokesman pointed to a high-level expert group that was set up in June to consider the need for new regulation when it comes to tracking and profiling, including facial recognition.

Discussions around regulating facial recognition technology follow the introduction of a number of public trials around Europe, some of which have been conducted without people knowing they were taking place.

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The UK's data protection watchdog is investigating the use of the technology to monitor crowds around London's King Cross. Just this week Sweden's national data protection authority imposed a fine of almost 200,000 kronor ($20,700) on a school that trialed the tech to monitor daily attendance of students. According to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was introduced last year, this use of the technology breached student privacy rights.

A new law to govern the use of the technology more widely would be part of the EU's mission to ensure AI and related tech are being used ethically. The Commission's new incoming president, Ursula von der Leyen, said she plans to introduce new legislation governing AI within her first 100 days in office when she takes up her new position in November.