PARIS — A controversial video surveillance system cleared a legislative hurdle Wednesday to be used during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics amid opposition from left-leaning French politicians and digital rights NGOs, who argue it infringes upon privacy standards.
The National Assembly’s law committee approved the system, but also voted to limit the temporary program’s duration until December 24, 2024, instead of June 2025.
The plan pitched by the French government includes experimental large-scale, real-time camera systems supported by an algorithm to spot suspicious behavior, including unsupervised luggage and alarming crowd movements like stampedes.
Earlier this week, civil society groups in France and beyond — including La Quadrature du Net, Access Now and Amnesty International — penned an op-ed in Le Monde raising concerns about what they argued was a “worrying precedent” that France could set in the EU.
There’s a risk that the measures, pitched as temporary, could become permanent, and they likely would not comply with the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act, the groups also argue.
About 90 left-leaning lawmakers signed a petition initiated by La Quadrature du Net to scrap Article 7, which includes the AI-powered surveillance system. They failed, however, to gather enough votes to have it deleted from the bill.
Lawmakers also voted to ensure the general public is better informed of where the cameras are and to involve the cybersecurity agency ANSSI on top of the privacy regulator CNIL. They also widened the pool of images and data that can be used to train the algorithms ahead of the Olympics.
The bill will go to a full plenary vote on March 21 for final approval.