Fifteen months have passed since the European Union introduced tough data privacy laws with its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and now it is reported that the EU plans strict limits on the use of facial recognition technology.

According to the Financial Times, senior officials at the European Commission are drawing up new regulations to give EU citizens explicit rights over the use of their facial recognition data.

The GDPR already imposes restrictions on the collection of biometric data, but Commission officials want to go further with specific legislation to strengthen citizens’ rights in this controversial area.

Earlier this month, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (IPO) announced that it would investigate media reports that a live face-scanning system was being used at King’s Cross station in London.

The IPO said it was “deeply concerned” and needed to check that the scanning of people’s faces “as they lawfully go about their daily lives” did not pose a threat to privacy.

Elsewhere in Europe, Sweden’s data protection watchdog this week imposed a 200,000 kroner (€19,000) fine on a school that used facial recognition cameras to track its students’ daily attendance.

Amid these and other developments, a source told the Financial Times that the Commission aims to limit the “indiscriminate use” of facial recognition technology.

And EU citizens reportedly will be given the right to know when facial recognition data is used, with any exceptions “tightly circumscribed” to ensure appropriate use.

Any tightening of legislation in this emerging field would likely have serious implications for technology companies and public authorities, but this is only part of wider plans by Brussels to improve the governance of artificial intelligence.

As the Financial Times reported, Ursula von der Leyen, who succeeds Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President later this year, has already said that she will unveil legislation within her first 100 days in office to provide a “co-ordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence”.

Sourced from Financial Times, BBC; additional content by WARC staff