Olympic Games 2024: the Senate adopts video surveillance by algorithm, the left denounces a new “big brother”

549 days. This is the time remaining before the opening ceremony, along the Seine, of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. “We are facing a relentless countdown”, warns the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, at the opening of the examination in the Senate of the bill on the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2024. A text of preparation for this planetary event.

The figures give an idea of ​​the magnitude of what awaits France, the host country. “10,500 athletes”, “549 events”, “more than 40,000 volunteers”, “13.5 million spectators, 20,000 accredited journalists and 4 billion viewers”, lists the senator of the LR group, Agnès Canayer, rapporteur for the text in the Senate .

A catch-all bill

The bill is catch-all, to say the least. To strengthen the fight against doping, the text plans to authorize genetic tests on athletes to detect blood transfusions or EPO. The senators made it an experiment in committee. In addition to derogations from the framework for advertising along the route of the Olympic flame, on Sunday rest, the authorization for foreign doctors to practice in the Olympic village, the bill also includes security provisions. Drawing lessons from the events at the Stade de France, entry into a sports arena without a ticket has become a new offence. In addition, the “strakers”, who enter the stadiums naked, as well as the activists (environmentalists in general) who enter the field with a message, will also be sanctioned. In committee, the centrist senator Claude Kern increased the fine from 1,500 to 3,750 euros.

Read also » Video surveillance, doping tests, trespassing in a stadium: the main provisions of the law on the 2024 Olympics

But on the security level, the heart of the debate, “the heart of the reactor”, as the socialist Sylvie Robert said, concerns the authorization, on an experimental basis and until June 30, 2025, i.e. after the Olympics, “augmented” video protection. We are talking here about the use of artificial intelligence, or rather algorithms, to detect behavior deemed “abnormal”, such as crowd movements, a person running, a crowd. The police are then alerted. The idea is to make it a decision support tool.

Detect crowd movements, suspicious packages, an “untimely” gathering

Thursday evening, the Senate adopted article 7 which brings this novelty, which the CNIL (National Commission for Computing and Freedoms) describes as a “turning point”, by 243 votes against 27 and 73 abstentions. If the defenders of public freedoms, as we will see, point to a serious danger, on the government side, the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, defends the measure. She claims to have “heard” the questions. But she insists on “the very many guarantees put in place” and defends the balance between the need to “be at the rendezvous of security, while preserving the rights and freedoms of our fellow citizens”. The government has also ruled out the use of facial recognition. What regrets Senator LR Marc-Philippe Daubresse, author of a bill to establish it.

Concretely, these algorithms will learn to detect “crowd movements, suspicious packages, a bottleneck in transport”, specifies the minister. Sonia Backès, Secretary of State to the Minister of the Interior also cites “abandoned packages and possibly long weapons”. Another example given by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, present in the evening on the bench of ministers: “An extremely untimely gathering, the breakage of bus shelters, a bag left on the ground”. Another case: “Let’s imagine that we have to manage a bomb threat, whether it is serious or not”, it is a question of knowing “under what conditions. Is this an oversight or is this done on purpose? “. “It’s not about looking at personal data. These are situations, ”sums up the tenant of Place Beauvau.

The control of the Cnil reinforced by the senators in committee

In committee, the majority on the right and in the center reinforced the powers of control of the Cnil, upstream, during the development phase of the algorithm. Guarantees that the rapporteur considers sufficient. “Article 7 certainly puts in place a major innovation, but which will help to secure major sporting, cultural and recreational events, and a fortiori in view of the Olympic Games”, argues Agnès Canayer, who adds that the system “is useful in view of the terrorist risk, which is still extremely high in our country” (see the first video).

The senator from Seine-Maritime continues: “This system is framed by numerous guarantees, established following the opinion of the Council of State and the Cnil. And at the law commission, we have reinforced them by full and complete control of the Cnil, in particular when creating algorithms, in the famous “sandboxes”. The rapporteur assures her, “human control remains permanent”.

“Chinese-style surveillance is really not our cup of tea”

Guarantees that do not reassure opponents of the reform, as it “makes us change the world”, denounces the EELV senator, Thomas Dossus, “it is a radical change in our approach to public space”. He fears a “great leap in the surveillance society”. In addition, for the senator from the Rhône (see the video below), “we are here facing a horseman, or a legislative Trojan horse”, because “the Olympics are a pretext to play the sorcerer’s apprentice of video surveillance », Launches the ecologist, and then perpetuate the system. Thomas Dossus adds:

It is an exceptional law which puts an additional penknife in our public freedoms.

Olympic Games: Thomas Dossus (EELV) denounces the use of algorithmic video surveillance

“It is a real problem of vision of society that arises. Of safe vision, of vision controlled by artificial intelligence, of big brother is watching you, ”says his ecologist colleague, Guy Benarroche.

“The Olympic motto is diverted here for higher, faster, stronger … security”, laughs Eliane Assassi, president of the communist group, according to whom the “Olympic Games of 2024 will be an accelerator of surveillance”. His fear: that “the state of exception created by the Olympic Games will allow security laws to be passed which will remain thereafter”. “Chinese-style surveillance is really not our cup of tea. And if we put our finger in it, we don’t know where we stop, ”also alerts his communist colleague, Pierre Ouzoulias.

“Are we collectively aware of the implications of such a reversal? »

“Are we collectively aware of the implications of such a reversal? asks socialist Sylvie Robert. The socialist group, however, did not vote against, like the ecologists and communists, but abstained. “There is a risk of creeping, low-noise development of a certain number of technologies,” warns PS Senator Jérôme Durain. But he prefers to frame these measures with “a clear perimeter, a fixed duration”, to accompany them, rather than reject them. What “advance together, in confidence, towards the use of these technologies”, defended the socialist, author of a report with Marc-Philippe Daubresse (LR) and Arnaud de Belenet (UC) on biometric recognition in the ‘public space. One of Jérôme Durain’s amendments, for the prevention of conflicts of interest of companies offering the systems, was adopted.

Those of Thomas Dossus to make the source code of the algorithms “accessible to all” and prevent the sale of artificial intelligence learning data, with the subsequent risk that these systems will one day be used in “less cautious regimes of public freedoms” , did not enjoy the same favorable fate. “There is no data transfer. They will not be sold to anyone” tried to convince him Gérald Darmanin. As for the algorithms that will be developed, “it is first and foremost an industrial property”, replied the minister, who sees their publication as a security risk. The debate is certainly not exhausted.

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Olympic Games 2024: the Senate adopts video surveillance by algorithm, the left denounces a new “big brother”


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