This is one of the regional campaign themes: facial recognition. Among the candidates, Valérie Pécresse, the president of the Ile-de-France region and Laurent Wauquiez, president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpe region declared themselves in favor. With the imprint of your face, this technique allows you to unlock your smartphone or go through the security gates at the airport. But it can also identify terrorists on file, wanted in public transport or on public roads. The latter use is prohibited in France until now.
The law does not prohibit this tool per se, but it strictly regulates its use. In particular, it requires obtaining the consent of the person, with a few exceptions. Patrice Navarro, is a lawyer specializing in data protection, he advises companies on this subject. “Everyone has been suspicious of facial recognition for a long time, he explains. It is a subject that is watched very closely by the CNIL, which continues to follow the experiments. She thus refused the use of facial recognition in high schools or to prevent the entry of hooligans into stadiums. France is not the most restrictive country, but it is one of the countries that thinks about it the most, however. “
France has even already tested several experiments that approach facial recognition. The latest: that of Cannes during confinement, or just after, in the Parisian metro in Châtelet-les-Halles, to check that people were wearing their masks. It is the start-up Datakalab which set up this system. Yet Xavier Fischer, its managing director, affirms it: it was not a question of identifying the travelers. “We quantified the mask wearing rate”, he says, “And we could see, for example, that the mask was better worn during the week than on weekends, in the morning than in the afternoon. All this to distribute masks and make sound announcements.”
“Valérie Pécresse used this data to communicate with the general public, never to verbalize. The data was not delivered until 20 minutes later so as to be sure that the person was far away, and that it was not thanks to the technology that ‘we verbalized. “Xavier Fisher, CEO of the start-up Datakalab
Last June the CNIL sounded the alarm and the experiment was interrupted because of this issue of consent. But Xavier Fischer will be able to continue the experiment in the Paris metro, thanks to a decree valid for one year, recently published by the Minister of Transport. “The CNIL told us: ‘The only way for you to legally resume your treatment is to rely on a decree issued by the Ministry of Transport.’ The cabinet of Valérie Pécresse worked with the RATP and the ministry, and this famous decree was released on March 11 to allow for a year the analysis of the image for statistical purposes in transport networks. “
This is what makes the defenders of individual freedoms say that this technology is advancing under cover and gaining ground in France. It is the position of the Quadrature du Net that alerts: according to them, the situation in France is serious. Martin Drago is a lawyer within the association, he closely monitors the advances of this technology in the territory. “It’s a bit of a kick-in-the-door strategy, he analyzes. For twenty years, CCTV cameras have been deployed on a massive scale in France. And little by little, we are starting to impose ourselves and deploy an additional algorithmic layer: we detect masks, suspicious behavior, etc. And then tomorrow, maybe everyone will have to be identified and identifiable on the street when we walk. The idea behind this approach is ultimately that we are all a bit suspicious. “
The stake for these regional elections is the deployment of this technology during the Rugby World Cup 2023 and the Olympic Games 2024 in Paris. Because the government and French companies want to make these two major events a laboratory and a showcase for new security technologies. They would facilitate entry into stadiums and identify unwanted people in fanzones.
But on this issue, there are still obstacles. “Technically, we can have false positives which is absolutely to be avoided”, says Maître Patrice Navarro who is working on this file, “Depending on how the artificial intelligence has been trained, that can lead it to be wrong. And then that also assumes the connection to databases of public safety. And we all know it: the more we assemble databases of this. type there, more behaviors like Big Brother are to be feared. It remains very difficult to set up such a system today by having enough guarantees to ensure that one does not go too far … “
At the same time, a European regulation on artificial intelligence has been in preparation in Parliament since April. But its application should take several more years.