EU urged to ban ‘discriminatory’ AI tools that detect gender or sexuality

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4/16/21

A cross-party group of European lawmakers called on Friday for an EU ban on artificial intelligence (AI) systems that detect and label people according to gender or sexuality, saying the technology was ripe for abuse and could fuel discrimination. Draft rules set to be announced by the European Commission next week include rights safeguards and curbs on AI technology such as facial recognition tools, but do not ban systems that detect gender, sexuality, race or disability, the lawmakers said. “To reduce people to appearances is discrimination – whether it is done by humans or machines,” Alexandra Geese, who drafted an open letter signed by 33 fellow MEPs, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments. “The potential harm of these technical applications outweighs their benefits so blatantly – if they even offer any benefits – that Europe should unequivocally turn its back on them by law.” Another MEP who signed the letter, Karen Melchior, said there was “no need for technologies to be deciding who is male and who is female, who is gay and who is not”. The lawmakers’ letter came after a coalition of rights groups, including All Out, a global LGBT+ rights organisation, and the digital rights group Access Now, gathered 30,000 signatures calling for Brussels to implement such a ban. After the Commission – the EU’s executive arm – formally presents its regulatory proposals on April 21, they will need to be thrashed out with EU countries and MEPs before becoming law.

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