The European Parliament Voted to Ban Remote Biometric Surveillance

It’s not actually banned in the EU yet—the legislative process is much more complicated than that—but it’s a step: a total ban on biometric mass surveillance.

To respect “privacy and human dignity,” MEPs said that EU lawmakers should pass a permanent ban on the automated recognition of individuals in public spaces, saying citizens should only be monitored when suspected of a crime.

The parliament has also called for a ban on the use of private facial recognition databases—such as the controversial AI system created by U.S. startup Clearview (also already in use by some police forces in Europe)—and said predictive policing based on behavioural data should also be outlawed.

MEPs also want to ban social scoring systems which seek to rate the trustworthiness of citizens based on their behaviour or personality.

Posted on October 11, 2021 at 7:49 AM35 Comments


Francesco Mantovani October 11, 2021 8:29 AM

I live in a 5 floor building in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Every now and then, especially during the pandemic, our parcels have been stolen multiple times. This happens randomly on a weekly bases. Thief are targeting small parcels that can contain a GoPro or a phone but also larger packages that still contains valuable items.
We signed a petition asking for a camera that could record the front door access but because the Swiss law forbids to record people in public places we still cannot have the camera on our front door. We are 4 families per floor: 20 families agreed to be recorded daily and we cannot because of the Swiss Law.

I tell you how this is going to end: 10-20 years form now people are going to vote, bagging for AI recognition.

Ask to a woman that lives in London or Paris if she feel safer with or without cameras at each corner of the street.

Winter October 11, 2021 8:31 AM

This actually follows fairly directly from the GDPR. The GDPR prohibits the collection and storage of personal data without consent. “Remote Biometric Surveillance” is just that: the collection and storage of personal data without consent.

Tech Wannabe October 11, 2021 9:51 AM

Of course something being banned doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Is anyone really naive enough to think a government entity(any country) will suddenly stop because it’s outlawed?

JPA October 11, 2021 10:05 AM

@Tech Wannabe

My sense is that while a country may continue to use outlawed methods, outlawing those methods has a couple of benefits.
First is means that it will take more effort to use those methods as they must be concealed.
Second it provides the defense an argument as if they can raise suspicion that outlawed methods were used to obtain the data then the case may be dismissed.

Maybe I’m just being overly hopeful though

JonKnowsNothing October 11, 2021 10:35 AM

This was reported 10 09 2021:

  Clearview scraped ’10bn’ selfies for facial recognition

Bio-metrics maybe banned but getting the data retracted, deleted, removed isn’t going to be easy. Jurisdiction hopping will prevent it.

Anonymous October 11, 2021 11:11 AM

Very good news and uplifting to read this when we are living in an age of mass surveillance. This gives me hope that someday surveillance capitalism will be reined in too.

dearmadfiacha October 11, 2021 11:28 AM

Isn’t the real issue that is being skirted here- defining what is “genuine” (or even “not genuine”, ingenuine, disingenuine…) remains absent?

What makes anyone believe that the barn door hasn’t been open for far too long and ‘the cows have already gone to pasture’?

Even if the EU passes regulations targeted at IT technology, the remote sensing genie has been out of the bottle- for decades. Pandora’s box has already released AI to the general public.

Duchess Gloriana XII of Grand Fenwick October 11, 2021 11:53 AM

“MEPs also want to ban social scoring systems”

Please don’t tell this to Klaus Schwab and the Davos Crowd, they might get upset.

SpaceLifeForm October 11, 2021 3:54 PM

Pure Security Theatre. See Apple CSAM.

You can have all of the Laws you want, but when the rubber meets the road, there will no way to prevent, and, certainly, when detected, it will just result in trivial fines.

Clive Robinson October 11, 2021 5:26 PM

@ ALL,

Sadly the UK is nolonger part of the EU, especially as the UK still has the reputation of having the most surveillance in public places of all the nations in the world.

Whilst people scoff at US fines and inhibitory regulation and lack of legislation, the EU on the other hand realy has scared Silicone Valley a number of times.

The big problem is coming up with legislation that is balanced, especially when the likes of Silicon Valley corps are about as unbalanced as you can get.

One issues is “consent” yes you can legislate against “presumed consent” but you can not realistically insist that anyone has access to content against the IP holders wishes. So you get the “gun to the head” “explicit consent” rules comming out of Silicon Valley Corps because they assume they have the “whip hand”.

So you need a “right of access” legislation to stay the whip hand. Usually for this sort of legislation to fly you have to play the “Public Interest” card. That is you have to in effect not just claim but demonstate that what is being offered is a “societal good” thus should be available to all without let or lien.

Think in terms of a “Common Service Provission” where by a private organisation becomes a “common carrier” setvice. As such they have to,

1, Make service available to all in a non discriminatory way.

With often further provission in the legislation to make,

2, Service at the same price to all.

3, Service provider has a “nobody left behind” provison put on them.

That is a Service Provider has to make service available even in areas where the costs would be prohibitively high at a proportional rate to the provision in highly profitable areas.

Whilst such legislation can be made for “national” / “state” providers the Internet is currently still International –though many governments want it to be otherwise– which makes “policing” and “enforcment” extreamly problematical.

JonKnowsNothing October 11, 2021 5:30 PM

@JPA, @Tech Wannabe

re: Illegal Evidence Collection vs Commercial Data Collection

There maybe a hindrance in collecting commercial data but every EULA/TOS has a mandatory ACCEPT with some cosmetic overlays about what can be collected. The veneer of what is OPTOUT is pretty thin. Lots has been written about OPTIN vs OPTOUT and the percentages of selection.

The hindrance may be in the back end collection systems or data warehouses-data brokers. But as they primarily purchase their data from the collecting parties it’s hard to see how there will be any significant impact. Even LEOs just buy vast quantities of data to by pass restrictions.

A good number of countries have SECRET EVIDENCE rules, including the USA. Data collected “when suspected of a crime ” is known in the USA as “RELEVANT” defined as “ALL”. The theory being LEOs don’t know if it’s “relevant” until “it IS relevant” so they can harvest until the sun goes down. Plenty of room at Bluffdale.

Secret Evidence in US is often Ex Parte evidence where only the prosecution and judge can see whatever it is. The defense never sees it but the accused can be convicted on it and sentenced on it. Only the LEOs assertion about what the information is and how it was collected may (or may not) be given to the judge(s). Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Mostly Don’t Tell.

Denton Scratch October 12, 2021 4:45 AM


“Ingenuine” and “disingenuine” are not words in English.

“Ingenue” is a word imported from French; an ingenue is a person who is ingenuous. “Ingenious” is a word too, meaning something completely unrelated.

“Ingenuous” means something like “innocent” or “uncontrived”. It’s not a word I can remember anyone actually using. “Disingenuous” is much more common; it means “deceptive”, “mendacious”, pretending to be honest and innocent.

Gert-Jan October 12, 2021 6:18 AM

Is this the first time they are making a distinction between collecting data (all those camera’s collecting video footage) and the analysis (“automatic recognition”)?

In the EU culture it makes sense to forbid the “recognition” as long as we’re presumed innocent.

But as is often the case with laws, it is virtually impossible to enforce.

The recognition may be implemented to only leave traces for events of interest in some vault, so a massive amount of analysis may go unnoticed.

And as long as the entity has the collected data (the video footage), the citizens are never safe from this (soon to be) unlawful recognition.

Petre Peter October 12, 2021 6:43 AM

This is great news for when we are in public but most of us are now online more than we are in public.

Winter October 12, 2021 6:49 AM

“There maybe a hindrance in collecting commercial data but every EULA/TOS has a mandatory ACCEPT with some cosmetic overlays about what can be collected. The veneer of what is OPTOUT is pretty thin. Lots has been written about OPTIN vs OPTOUT and the percentages of selection.”

That is already covered in the GDPR: Meaningful consent is required with sound legal standards on “meaningful”. No OPTOUT is simply not legal ground for data collection. It also means that any data collected outside of this law is unlawful and processing or storing it is a crime. This holds for any entity that stores data on people from or in the EU and does business with EU citizens or people living in the EU.

If Clearview stores any data on people from or in the EU, they better should not do business with anyone in the EU, or travel there.

ATN October 12, 2021 8:22 AM

@Winter: “No OPTOUT is simply not legal ground for data collection.”

The OPTOUT is simple concerning the European covid vaccine pass, if you OUPOUT you simply just have to, in some countries:
– stop going to work
– stop eating in restaurants
– stop having a beer in the pub…
Your choice.

The Covid vaccine database is obviously perfectly secured, the application managing it is totally free, and the engineers managing the whole system work for free, for the good of humanity.

Obviously everybody should be vaccinated (but very few medical exceptions), just talking about the QR code, checked by a third party mobile phone full of compromises.

On the more general subject, you do not need facial recognition if you already know who that person is based on his mobile phone broadcasts.

There is now even catch-up TV which do not need any login, any identification: they already know who you are on the first Internet request, no need to bother you with complex OUPOUT questions…

Clive Robinson October 12, 2021 8:23 AM

@ Denton,

“Ingenuous” means something like “innocent” or “uncontrived”. It’s not a word I can remember anyone actually using.

It is used, but as you say very rarely and these days with reason…

Anyone who watched the film The Martian will have seen the character mulling over what pose to use for the photo “Highschool Senior” or “college Ingenue”.

Thus the implication of “college Ingenue” is some “innocent” –ie supposed virgin etc– entering into a wider less sheltered world with all that entailes. Thus all those photos in the “high school books” are thus “Ingenuous photos”.

Which whilst it once was an acceptable phrase now sounds somewhat creepy…

Winter October 12, 2021 8:36 AM

“The OPTOUT is simple concerning the European covid vaccine pass, if you OUPOUT you simply just have to, in some countries:”

Public health, i.e., life and death, trumps privacy. The EU has delegated all decisions about health care to the member states. The GDPR does not invalidate that.

Within that framework, the passes do try to preserve privacy and anyone found in unlawful possession of these data is eligible for jail time.

This is how it should be. Privacy does is not prioritized over preventing mass deaths as people are rather alive with privacy risks than privately dead.

ATN October 12, 2021 10:30 AM

@Winter: Public health, i.e., life and death, trumps privacy.

Before Covid, you could do anything if it either:
– could, in any way or form, harm a children
– could, in any way or form, help a terrorist

Now you have just added “Public health” to the list of things which override any legislation.

How about convincing people what need to be done, and having a bit of trust?
Without such thing, anyway, there is no society possible – certainly no democracies.
There will always be outliers, people trying to play the system, and finding “fake” certificates (either covid, or passport, or….) is always on the other side of your Internet search tool, if you are ready to pay for it.
Best if not everybody need to prove everything to strangers, using far to be safe methods (i.e. random mobile phone you do not own, cf covid QR).

Winter October 13, 2021 12:17 AM

“How about convincing people what need to be done, and having a bit of trust?”

A minority of fools can kill a majority of wise people. See 6 January coup attempt, COVID denialists etc.

Winter October 13, 2021 12:50 AM

“Now you have just added “Public health” to the list of things which override any legislation.”

That has always been the case. High death rates trump any rights. See the story of typhoid Mary.
ht tps://

Claiming your freedom to visit any place you like, infectious or not, overrules the health & life of everyone else is simply ludicrous.

But we knew that. You are not allowed to smoke in places where other people have to work. Who yells about their right to smoke everywhere they want? And you cannot drive without a license. Also your freedom to DUI is crushed without much controversy.

Clive Robinson October 13, 2021 2:56 AM

@ ATN,

Now you have just added “Public health” to the list of things which override any legislation.

I’ve been going on about “Personal Rights-v-Societal Responsibilities” for quite some time now.

The simple fact is the only “rights” you have are the ones the society you live in alows you.

So it you live alone in some remote place you can do much of what you want to because there is nobody to stop you.

But the reason few would chose to live that way is that living in a society brings so many benifits not doing so would for them be the equivalent of committing suicide. Because they do not have the knowledge or skills for even basic survival, as for dealing with injury and illness, have a look at just how much life expectancy has improved. Not just that but the ability to communicate and excercise the mind to earn a living rather than age the body prematurely with physical labour that society has progressed far enough in science and engineering to make unnecessary.

There is no need for a society to give you “rights” and many do not, does that stop societies from existing, no it does not.

Some regard societies as living entities, so it follows that if a society gives individuals rights then society it’s self must have rights.

That is society has expectations that the individual parts of society do not work against society. That is the expectation is you live within societal moores and norms and you do not do things that harm society.

Because there are always those that think they can go against the moores and norms of society, society protects it’s self with legislation and regulation backed by a punishment system that for wrongs against society punishes individuals be removing them from society either temporally or permanently.

You might not like this, and you may see it as a restriction on yourself, the question is how do you reconcile this?

So the question realy boils down to,

“Should irresponsible individuals by their wilful actions be alowed to cause not just harm but death to many other individuals?”

What you are saying gives the impression you think yes…

Robin October 13, 2021 3:00 AM

@Francesco Mantovani

The proposed ban is not of cameras, but of automated facial recognition. At least, based on the quote above.

any moose October 13, 2021 12:48 PM


“A minority of fools can kill a majority of wise people. See 6 January coup attempt, COVID denialists etc.”

Five people died in the January 6 riot, one of whom was a protester. Compare that to antifa’s never-ending riots in Portland and Seattle, which have resulted in a number of deaths, as well as a large number of buildings being torched. For Portland. as of September 14, 882 people have been shot, as compared to 2020’s total-for-the-year of 606, according to Portland PD. Not to mention Chicago, where, as of July 7, 2021 have been shot and 364 killed, according to the Chicago Tribune. These shootings are not being perpetrated by right-wingers.

Bolshevik thugs have killed orders of magnitude more than right-wingers. According to ABC News, Rose City Antifa boasted, “The use of violence is a tactic of how we keep our communities safe.”

As for your claim regarding COVID-19, you conveniently ignore the fact that most of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 were actually caused by something else. Health agencies report deaths as having been caused by COVID-19 if the person had antibodies for it, which we pretty much all do now.

any moose October 13, 2021 4:13 PM

@Rocky the Flying Squirrel

“Clearly, Bullwinkle has lost the plot.”

If plot is defined as leftist / Bolshevik propaganda, then I agree. But if plot is defined by actual facts, then it’s you who has lost it. Or more likely, never had it.

Clive Robinson October 13, 2021 4:23 PM

@ any moose,

according to the Chicago Tribune. These shootings are not being perpetrated by right-wingers.

Bolshevik thugs have killed orders of magnitude more than right-wingers.

So you believe a newspaper that was repeatedly informed about the highly illegal Chicago PD “black site” where people were denied their basic rights and in many cases tortured to try and force them to act as informants and agent provocateurs and worse. Something that the Chicago Mayor was not only well aware of but actively involved with. Yet the newspaper repeatedly and wilfully refused to print it.

But more interesting you then immediatly claim “Bolshevik thugs” without any evidence what so ever.

Do you actually know historicaly what a “Bolshevik thug” was?

Or did you just get told some ultra rightwing claptrap and think it sounds cool?

As @Rocky… Has observed,

Clearly, Bullwinkle has lost the plot.

But I suspect you are insufficiently worldly wise to get the refrence.

Winter October 14, 2021 12:06 AM

@any moose
“Five people died in the January 6 riot, one of whom was a protester.”

That was the result of blatant incompetence, not for lack of trying. They had been shown around where to find their victims. But then got lost. But it was close.

MarkH October 14, 2021 9:26 PM


We often write comments here in rather sweeping language, which will sometimes correspond to an incorrect impression.

Secret evidence is certainly a problem in the U.S. If I understand the situation correctly, it is (for now, at least) quite exceptional in criminal cases.

Anyone, please correct any non-facts you might see below!

In the sense Jon wrote of, I believe secret evidence to be limited to (a) federal prosecutions or (b) immigration proceedings in which national security or terrorism are (claimed to be) implicated.

Currently, federal courts seem to be taking on about 100,000 defendants per year. Of those, roughly 200 seem to be under the rubric of national security or terrorism. I didn’t see the corresponding numbers for immigration.

The use of secret evidence — at least, when the defense counsel cannot see it — is inevitably damaging to justice. Objectionable though I find this practice, I wish to correct any potential inference that it is widespread or routine.

JonKnowsNothing October 15, 2021 12:35 AM

@MarkH, All

re: Sweeping uses…


Secret Evidence is just that. Secret. Unless you have access to the back end information pipe, no one on the front end of the pipeline knows what’s not being presented.

There is a process called “discovery” that is supposed to take place prior to appearing in court where each side shows their poker hand to the other. The prosecution shows the defense what evidence they have and a list of what the penalties are if the person is convicted for the charge(s). The prosecution also shows a list of all the charges under consideration at that time, reserving the rights to add or delete charges and penalties in the future.

Some evidence is “Sealed” for a variety of reasons but this is not the same as Secret Evidence. Sealed evidence often has some current policy, event or social problem as a basis, prohibiting the publication of the information but it is known to both parties in the proceedings.

One might be able to differentiate between Secret and Withheld evidence. They have some similarities in structure and outcome effects. Finding out about either forms takes a very long time and makes for terrific or horrific reading on the front pages of news outlets.

Marcy Wheeler had some illuminating posts on the charges and penalties facing the Winter-Disconnect-Event people. I had never seen such a table before but it made perfect sense that one should exist. In a way both reassuring and shocking.

  One from Column A, times 2 from Column B, add Column C and divide by Plea.

If you hold a few aces up your sleeve, Bob’s Your Uncle and not your Ante.

MarkH October 15, 2021 1:04 AM


I was careful to say “In the sense Jon wrote of …” precisely because secret and withheld evidence are distinct categories.

They’re both harmful, but they’re different.

Secret evidence is shown to one or more judges. Withheld evidence is (excepting cases of revelation, or some extraordinarily corrupt judge) not seen by judge or jury.

Secret evidence is permitted (supposedly) by law. Withholding by prosecutors of certain categories of evidence has been ruled by SCOTUS as a violation of constitutional rights for almost sixty years.

That the defense knows of secret evidence is of little use to the client. The revelation of withheld evidence can alter the course of a trial, or enable overturning of a conviction.

They’re both harmful, but they’re different.


I don’t understand “winter-disconnect-event.” Is there more conventional language I could use to look that up? Thanks.

JonKnowsNothing October 15, 2021 11:28 AM



I concur completely.

It should be noted that this is in reference to USA Legal System, ’cause there are a lot of others out there that have way different views, mechanisms and vagaries of application. Some use the Emperor Maximilian I result on a regular basis.

As to the phrase used, it was but a poor attempt to refer to the USA January Experience without triggering a bolt storm.

MarkH October 15, 2021 2:01 PM


Got it.

We’re all Chinese now — we’ll have to say December 37th to evade censorious wrath.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.