Has the EU’s AI Act Became a Trojan Horse for Mass Surveillance?

Has the EU’s AI Act Became a Trojan Horse for Mass Surveillance?

The European Union has made history by approving the world’s first-ever regulations for artificial intelligence. But far from safeguarding citizens’ freedoms, the AI Act represents a disturbing capitulation to corporate greed and authoritarian overreach.

Despite lofty rhetoric about ethical AI governance, the fine print reveals a sellout to Big Tech lobbying and a brazen attack on privacy and human rights. Even Amnesty International slammed the Act for “prioritising the interests of industry and law enforcement over protecting people.”

One of the most egregious provisions allows exemptions for police use of live facial recognition systems to scan crowds indiscriminately. The Act pays lip service to a ban on “remote biometric identification” in public spaces, but creates gaping loopholes that campaigners warn could “swallow the rule” – paving the way for ubiquitous face surveillance that would make Big Brother blush.

It gets worse. The regulations greenlight predictive policing systems that activists rightly condemn as “a 21st-century phrenology” based on pseudoscience. By enshrining these algorithms into law, the EU has approved the kind of AI-powered social control that belongs in a dystopian fiction novel.

AI researchers also raised alarms about vague language allowing virtually any use case to be exempted on “national security” grounds. This sounds innocuous but could enable human rights abuses like tracking dissidents, LGBTQ+ people, and minority groups.

Perhaps most concerningly, the Act creates a “separate regime” stripping rights from refugees, migrants and undocumented people – the most vulnerable in society. It’s a stark reminder that when human rights conflict with the interests of power, human rights rarely win.

As Daniel Leufer of Access Now put it, the AI Act is “littered with concessions to industry lobbying” and “exemptions for the most dangerous uses of AI by law enforcement and migration authorities.” In other words, a policy supposedly crafted to protect citizens has become a license for corporate exploitation and government overreach.

Of course, defenders claim the Act sets important guardrails for “high-risk” AI uses like medical devices. But with loopholes big enough to drive a truck through, these supposed protections look more like window dressing. Let’s call this what it is – a regulatory Trojan horse smuggling mass surveillance into our daily lives under the guise of innovation.

As AI grows more powerful and ubiquitous, robust governance is indeed crucial. But the EU had a historic opportunity to enshrine human rights as the highest priority – and failed spectacularly. If this deeply flawed Act does become a “global benchmark” as some fear, it will be a damning indictment of politics corrupted by special interests at the expense of human freedom.

There’s still hope policymakers elsewhere will learn from the EU’s mistake and enact truly rights-preserving AI frameworks. But anyone who values democracy should view this legislation as a dark omen and a call to action. The battle to keep dystopian AI confined to science fiction is only just beginning.

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