Europe acts against the threat of a social credit system with new AI rulebook


The European Parliament has voted in favour of document that it describes as the world’s first ever rules for artificial intelligence.

Running to well over 100 pages, the document itself is the usual legalese tome. Mercifully it is decoded and summarised in a press release, facilitating its further simplification here. The powers that be in the EU want to make sure ‘AI systems are overseen by people, are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory, and environmentally friendly.’ That’s a big ask.

Recent amendments to the rulebook seem to have focused on the non-discriminatory side of things, arguably the most important area as it concerns things like surveillance systems and pre-crime prevention. MEPs amended the document to explicitly ban the following, as listed in the release.

  • “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces;
  • “Post” remote biometric identification systems, with the only exception of law enforcement for the prosecution of serious crimes and only after judicial authorization;
  • Biometric categorisation systems using sensitive characteristics (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, political orientation);
  • Predictive policing systems (based on profiling, location or past criminal behaviour);
  • Emotion recognition systems in law enforcement, border management, workplace, and educational institutions; and
  • Indiscriminate scraping of biometric data from social media or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases (violating human rights and right to privacy).

You don’t have to be the most paranoid, tinfoil hat-wearing kook to see how a failure to prevent the above would inevitably lead to the insidious introduction of a dystopian social credit system in which everyone is monitored constantly, with evidence against them constantly gathered and AI used to anticipate the possibility of them transgressing whichever arbitrary rules it’s programmed to enforce.

“Given the profound transformative impact AI will have on our societies and economies, the AI Act is very likely the most important piece of legislation in this mandate,” said MEP Dragoş Tudorache. “It’s the first piece of legislation of this kind worldwide, which means that the EU can lead the way in making AI human-centric, trustworthy and safe.

“We have worked to support AI innovation in Europe and to give start-ups, SMEs and industry space to grow and innovate, while protecting fundamental rights, strengthening democratic oversight and ensuring a mature system of AI governance and enforcement.”

Europe is hoping to lead the way on the incredibly difficult but vital topic of AI ethics with its AI Act. The combination of turbo-charged AI, ubiquitous surveillance, and the fact that we all carry a powerful tracking device with us at all times creates the potential for an unprecedented concentration of power over the population. The sooner the world agrees on robust guard-rails to benignly contain these technologies the better.


Get the latest news straight to your inbox. Register for the newsletter here.

  • 2020 Vision Executive Summit


  1. Avatar rayo 16/05/2023 @ 9:32 am

    @scott: – A penny for your thoughts, shouldn’t past criminal behavior at least be one of the attributes that should make it to the allow list when it comes to predictive policing? Else how does one go about predictive policing?

    Alternatively, do you believe that predictive policing, should not be done at all?

    love the podcast… the most recent one (Threedafone, chips and digital media) – the ramblings in the last 30 minutes was actually the most interesting part of the podcast. 🙂

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 17/05/2023 @ 9:24 am

      Thanks a lot Rayo. I’m finding it hard to support predictive policing in any form. At the very least it represents a thin end of the wedge towards full Orwellian thoughtcrime. Also, how do you act on a person who has yet to commit a crime?

  2. Avatar rayo 18/05/2023 @ 5:39 am

    @scott: while i agree with most of what you said, i still think predictive policing based on past criminal behaviour should be allowed.

    imagine a scenario wherein a person has a previous criminal record for violent conduct as a form of protest at a discussion on a sensitive topic (immigration as an example).

    When the next discussion on the same topic occurs, should not the law enforcement be in a position to profile the attendees for their past criminal record and if need be either prevent said person from attending or step-up police presence at the event.

    this is similar to what law enforcement does when a senior head of state, attends a public event – attendees are profiled for their past criminal record and if anyone is deemed to be a threat, they are either prevented from attending and/or security is enhanced at the event.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 18/05/2023 @ 9:15 am

      I still think that centralises power too much and disempowers the individual. By all means step up policing as needed but don’t preemptively punish people.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.