61 MEPs urge the EU to ban biometric mass surveillance!

This week, 61 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the political spectrum, including representatives of the Greens, the Left, Renew Europe, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and the Identity & Democracy (ID) groups raised their voices in agreement with the Reclaim Your Face campaign. They wrote not one, but two powerful letters, which made their position clear to the European Commission (EC): discriminatory biometric mass surveillance practices can have no place in our societies! The letters come only a few days before the EC’s publication of a new and long-awaited EU law on artificial intelligence.

“We urge you to make sure that existing protections are upheld and a clear ban on biometric mass surveillance in public spaces is proposed. This is what a majority of citizens want.”

– Letter from 40 MEPs, 15 April 2021

EU’s new AI laws

For over a year, we have all been waiting for the European Commission to propose a new law that regulates artificial intelligence (AI), including new rules for what they call “remote biometric identification in publicly accessible spaces”. Civil society called it out for what it is: biometric mass surveillance – a discriminatory, harmful, and undemocratic practice. The Reclaim Your Face coalition formed and we started fighting back against biometric mass surveillance.

The European Commission is expected to propose a draft of the new AI law on 21 April. However, on 13 April, news broke in the press of a leaked draft, dating back to January 2021. This leak gave us some insight into what the Commission has been thinking these last months.

The protections for fundamental rights in the recently leaked draft have not been strong enough, which is why civil society and MEPs alike have sprung into action to make sure that the law is as strongly protective as possible of all our rights and freedoms.

In both letters, the Members of the European Parliament call out how biometric mass surveillance can lead to serious harms including:

violating rights to privacy and data protection; suppressing free speech; making it harder to expose corruption; and have a chilling effect on everyone’s autonomy, dignity and self-expression – which in particular can seriously harm LGBTQI+ communities, people of colour, and other discriminated-against groups.

In a further letter sent on 16 April 2021, 35 Members of the European Parliament (some of whom signed the letter the previous day, adding up to a total of 61 unique signatures) also pointed at the urgent need to address all uses of AI that can perpetuate structural discrimination:

prohibit uses of AI that will be especially harmful to Europe’s

minority communities who have historically faced marginalisation and oppression, and which can

be exacerbated by certain applications of AI.

You can shape the EU!

Almost 50.000 people have already called on the EU to ban biometric mass surveillance. Our official initiative needs to reach 1 million signatures for it to become legally-binding on the EC to respond!

So if you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to sign the official citizens’ initiative (ECI) for a ban on biometric mass surveillance practices. The ECI is the only formal EU petition tool through which you can exercise your democratic rights as a citizen.

Tell the EU we do not want to live in societies of suspicion.

Read EDRi and other civil society groups’ first responses to the Commission on the leaked proposal:

Read the full MEP letter from 16 April:

Read the full MEP letter from 15 April:

ReclaimYourFace is a movement led by civil society organisations across Europe:

Access Now ARTICLE19 Bits of Freedom CCC Defesa dos Direitos Digitais (D3) Digitalcourage Digitale Gesellschaft CH Digitale Gesellschaft DE Državljan D EDRi Electronic Frontier Finland Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights Homo Digitalis IT-Political Association of Denmark IuRe La Quadrature du Net Liberties Metamorphosis Foundation Panoptykon Foundation Privacy International SHARE Foundation
In collaboration with our campaign partners:

AlgorithmWatch AlgorithmWatch/CH All Out Amnesty International Anna Elbe Aquilenet Associazione Luca Coscioni Ban Facial Recognition Europe Big Brother Watch Certi Diritti Chaos Computer Club Lëtzebuerg (C3L) CILD D64 Danes je nov dan Datapanik Digitale Freiheit DPO Innovation Electronic Frontier Norway European Center for Not-for-profit Law (ECNL) European Digital Society Eumans Football Supporters Europe Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung Germanwatch German acm chapter Gesellschaft Fur Informatik (German Informatics Society) GONG Hellenic Association of Data Protection and Privacy Hellenic League for Human Rights info.nodes irish council for civil liberties JEF, Young European Federalists Kameras Stoppen Ligue des droits de L'Homme (FR) Ligue des Droits Humains (BE) LOAD e.V. Ministry of Privacy Privacy first logo Privacy Lx Privacy Network Projetto Winston Smith Reporters United Saplinq Science for Democracy Selbstbestimmt.Digital STRALI Stop Wapenhandel The Good Lobby Italia UNI-Europa Unsurv Vrijbit Wikimedia FR Xnet

Reclaim Your Face is also supported by:

Jusos Piratenpartei DE Pirátská Strana

MEP Patrick Breyer, Germany, Greens/EFA
MEP Marcel Kolaja, Czechia, Greens/EFA
MEP Anne-Sophie Pelletier, France, The Left
MEP Kateřina Konečná, Czechia, The Left

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Here's how you can get involved.
If you're an individual rather than an organisation, or your organisation type isn't covered in the partnering document, please get in touch with us directly.