France Under Fire Over Fast-Tracked AI Video Surveillance Plan

The French administration is utilizing accelerated legislative measures to ensure the utilization of AI-powered video surveillance technology to adequately prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

France has been using the upcoming Olympic Games to justify extending police surveillance powers, though rights groups have expressed concern. Despite these worries, the government claimed that exceptional security measures are necessary to avoid disrupting what is expected to be an event viewed by 13 million people.

Legalizing AI-assisted video surveillance is among the proposed measures taken to help protect citizens and public safety.

This marked the first instance in France of using AI algorithms in automated video camera surveillance to detect any suspicion of abnormality within a crowd.

Police action could be automatically signaled by algorithms that analyze video images from fixed CCTV cameras or drones, being highlighted to flag up unusual or suspicious behavior.

At the amazing Paris opening ceremony, with roughly 600,000 people attending the showcase event, AI systems will be deployed to ensure safety and security. Not only that, but these advanced monitoring tools will also be put in place near happenings around stadiums, streets, and transport hubs all across the city too.

At a briefing with reporters, the French sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and the interior minister Gérald Darmanin expressed strong support for a new bill introducing “essential adjustments” to strengthen security and provide a “framework” specifically for the games.

The French hope to avoid repeating last year’s Champions League final debacle at the Stade de France, where tear gas and robberies detracted from the experience. To this end, they have proposed increasing police presence and installing special surveillance cameras around stadium grounds.

Ministers have made it known that no facial recognition technologies would be employed in providing security measures to the Olympics. Also, comments have been made that supplying automated video surveillance was a short-term experiment.

The proposed measure, legally set to remain until June 2025, after the Olympic Games hiatus this spring season, could become permanent law with a danger sign raised by Rights groups. It would cover all sporting, festive, and cultural events within its broad timeframe.

The Senate has given its approval Tuesday, and the lower house in the national assembly is slated to consider this Bill in February. Despite this, campaigners have urged for a wider debate regarding it by the public.

Amnesty International cautioned France not to take this “dangerous step” towards utilizing AI surveillance technologies which they interpreted as a “turning point.” This proposition, they said, posed a threat to global human and privacy rights.

Katia Roux advocates for the intersection of technology and human rights, providing expertise at Amnesty International France.

Katia Roux says:

“We’re deeply worried by the fact that these algorithms will be able to analyse images from fixed CCTV cameras or drones to detect ‘abnormal or suspect’ behaviour. First, there is the issue of defining abnormal or suspect behaviour – who will decide what behaviour is the norm or not? Also, in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms, we consider the proposal presents a danger to the right to a private life, it could also impact freedom of expression, freedom to meet, and the principle of non-discrimination.”

Katia Roux went on to say:

“French authorities’ very clear will for several years to broaden the surveillance powers of the police.”

“In reality the algorithms will analyse behaviour, and physical data, which is data that must be protected.”

The bill, emerging when global security threats remain high, is not tested for its efficiency in automatic scientific surveillance. According to Roux, the context of the bill is equally important.

Using the Olympics as an excuse, Amnesty warned that measures taken for exceptional circumstances must not become permanent law.

While the French government is standing by its decision to use AI-powered video surveillance at the 2024 Paris Olympics, many are critical of the move. The potential for infringement on privacy rights and civil liberties is high, particularly given that the technology is still in its early stages. There are also concerns that AI could be used to target certain ethnic or religious groups. Only time will tell how this controversial plan will play out.



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