The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has recently expressed his concerns over the potential negative outcomes of facial recognition systems. He suggests that these systems might lead to “mass surveillance of our public spaces, destroying any concept of privacy.” His comments came as a part of a broader discussion about the possible dangers of AI, such as its potential to strengthen authoritarian governance, operate lethal autonomous weapons, or perpetuate systemic bias.
Türk’s statement comes at a critical time, as the EU’s AI Act, which aims to establish a common regulatory and legal framework for governing artificial intelligence, is currently undergoing negotiation. The Act, which is set to come into force in 2025, includes outright bans on real-time biometric surveillance, emotion recognition, and predictive policing systems, while also imposing significant limitations on the retrospective use of facial recognition.
The Commissioner also proposed the creation of an international advisory body for “particularly high-risk” technologies that could work on cross-border regulatory standards. He further warned against letting the AI industry assert that self-regulation is sufficient and emphasized that the full democratic process must shape the legal framework for AI.
The EU’s approach to regulating AI and biometric surveillance could have a significant global impact, similar to how the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has influenced data policy worldwide. The EU’s AI Act is seen by some as a chance to set “new international standards” for tech policy worldwide.