- LAURA KAYALI
French Senate backs AI-powered video surveillance for Paris 2024 Olympics
A majority of senators voted against introducing facial recognition.
The plans include large-scale, real-time camera systems supported by an algorithm to spot suspicious behavior | Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE
PARIS — France's Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in favor of a bill allowing experimental AI-powered video surveillance during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra thanked senators for swiftly adopting the text, which is, she said, an "essential milestone" in preparation for the sporting mega event. 245 lawmakers voted in favor and 28 against.
In late December, the French government presented legislation that would massively expand its arsenal of surveillance powers and tools to boost security for the millions of tourists expected for the 2024 Olympics.
The plans include large-scale, real-time camera systems supported by an algorithm to spot suspicious behavior, including unsupervised luggage, and alarming crowd movements like stampedes. Civil liberties NGOs such as La Quadrature du Net and the Human Rights League are campaigning against such devices amid concerns that what is pitched as a temporary experiment will actually become permanent.
Earlier in January, senators in the law committee added additional privacy safeguards, including greater oversight of the French data protection authority CNIL.
Algorithmic training before the Olympics kick off would have to be compliant with privacy rules and humans would need to be involved, according to the text voted on Tuesday. Senators also want the public to be better informed.
Amendments to introduce facial recognition were however rejected.
The bill now goes to the National Assembly.