Reclaim Your Face: a call for European citizens to demand facial recognition ban

Access Now, EDRi, and the Reclaim Your Face coalition are calling for a Europe-wide ban on the use of dangerous facial recognition technologies that perpetuate discrimination, erode privacy, and enable biometric mass surveillance.

Today, February 17, the coalition is rallying community support to #ReclaimYourFace through the launch of a new European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) — a unique tool that provides space for European citizens to organize and collectively demand new legislative frameworks. 

“We all have the right to privacy and other rights that ensure that we live in a free and democratic society. We all have the right to exist in a Europe where governments and companies don’t spy on us through harmful technologies,” said Fanny Hidvégi, Europe Policy Director at Access Now. “We are calling on all European citizens to take an active role in defending our rights, demanding change, and reclaiming our faces.”

Biometric mass surveillance is the blanket capture, monitoring or tracking of individuals’ unique identifying features, ranging from facial expressions to how people walk. European governments, police forces, and private companies should no longer be allowed to process the unique biometric data of everyday people — an act often currently carried out in public settings such as parks, shopping centres, and train stations, without consent or recourse.

Despite big talk about promoting ‘trustworthy AI’ that is in line with European values, technologies — such as facial recognition — that enable biometric mass surveillance are being developed and deployed in the European Union,” said Daniel Leufer, Europe Policy Analyst at Access Now. These technologies do not just pose a risk to our rights, they fundamentally undermine them. EU institutions, national governments and agencies, and local administration each have their obligations to protect our fundamental rights and ban these technologies now and forever.

How does the European Citizens’ Initiative work?

The ECI needs to collect one million signatures in at least seven EU countries throughout  the next year. If successful, it will oblige the European Commission to respond to the formal demand for a new law to ban biometric mass surveillance, and open a debate among the Members of the European Parliament.