Amnesty International protests against Paris 2024 over AI surveillance . GETTY IMAGES

Amnesty International has staged a symbolic funeral in protest at the French parliament's approval of the use of artificial intelligence-enhanced surveillance camera systems during the Olympic Games, which are due to start in the last week of July.

Amnesty International is protesting against the approval by the Parliament of the French Republic of the authorisation it gave for the implementation of the use of artificial intelligence for surveillance during the Games, which will take place from 26 July to 11 August in Paris and other French cities, including overseas territories.

The protest took place this Tuesday at the famous Parisian cemetery of Père Lachaise, warning of the dangers of using surveillance cameras equipped with artificial intelligence during this summer's Olympic Games.

The government has claimed that such technology is necessary to manage crowds of millions of people and detect potential dangers, and that tests of the smart cameras will not process biometric data or use facial recognition.

But critics argue that it paves the way for widespread facial recognition and threatens basic civil liberties. Amnesty has called for legislation in France to ban the use of facial recognition systems in public spaces.

Outside Père Lachaise cemetery, men solemnly carried a coffin marked "privacy" from a hearse to an impromptu roadside funeral parlour filled with mourners dressed in black.

Members of Amnesty International France carry a coffin during a symbolic action against facial recognition on 28 may in Paris. GETTY IMAGES
Members of Amnesty International France carry a coffin during a symbolic action against facial recognition on 28 may in Paris. GETTY IMAGES

"We do not bury privacy. No to facial recognition," read a banner over the coffin.

Amnesty International is a global movement of 10 million people in 150 countries working to promote and defend human rights as proclaimed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights treaties and covenants.

The rights group argues that facial recognition undermines the right to peaceful protest and the right to privacy, and can increase racial discrimination in police surveillance.

Facial recognition has already been trialled in France, Amnesty International said. The southern city of Nice used an Israeli system to scan faces in the crowd during its carnival in 2019, it claims.

And the French investigative news outlet Disclose has reported that some police stations have been using another Israeli software system to do the same since 2018.

A wreath of flowers with an inscription reading
A wreath of flowers with an inscription reading "Rest in Peace Privacy" during a gathering and a symbolic action against facial recognition in public spaces. GETTY IMAGES

Worldwide, authorities have used similar technology in New York City, the occupied Palestinian territories and Hyderabad in India, Amnesty adds.

Mher Hakobyan, Amnesty International's advocacy advisor on artificial intelligence, previously stated that "while policymakers have hailed the AI Law as a global model for AI regulation, the legislation does not include basic human rights principles."

Similarly, Amnesty International's Advocacy Advisor on AI Regulation added: "While the adoption of the world's first rules on the development and use of AI technologies is a milestone, it is disappointing that the EU and its 27 member states have decided to prioritise the interests of industry and law enforcement over the protection of people and their human rights," as can be seen on Amnesty's own website in an opinion report on AI in the European Union.

It also published a report last week entitled "The Digital Border: Migration, Technology and Inequality", which highlights how the use of new technologies by state and non-state actors in migration systems worldwide increases the likelihood of human rights violations against people on the move, including the rights to privacy, non-discrimination, equality and asylum.

"The protection of human rights should not be sacrificed for the sake of private profit," said Eliza Aspen, researcher at Amnesty International. "States have no obligations to private companies. What they do have is an obligation to ensure that both state and non-state actors respect the human rights of people on the move".