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


April 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A multi-stakeholder group of EU lawmakers on Friday called for an EU ban on artificial intelligence (AI) systems that detect and label people based on gender or sexuality, saying the technology was ripe for abuse and could discriminate against fuels.

The draft rules that will be announced by the European Commission next week include rights guarantees and restrictions on AI technology such as facial recognition tools, but do not ban systems that detect gender, sexuality, race or disability, lawmakers said.

“Reducing people to appearances is discrimination – whether by humans or machines,” said Alexandra Geese, who wrote an open letter signed by 33 fellow MEPs, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation in comments sent via email. .

“The potential harm of these technical applications so blatantly outweighs their advantages – if they even offer advantages – 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 technology to decide who is a man and who is a woman, who is gay and who is not” .

The lawmakers’ letter came after a coalition of rights groups, including All Out, a global LGBT + rights organization, and digital rights group Access Now, gathered 30,000 signatures calling on Brussels to implement such a ban.

After the Commission – the EU’s executive body – officially presents its regulatory proposals on April 21, they will need to be debated with EU countries and MEPs before becoming law.


Artificial intelligence systems that identify and process images of people’s faces often include a process that divides people into two genders – male and female, said Os Keyes, a doctoral student studying these systems at the University of Washington.

Researchers began creating tools to identify sexuality from photographs, including a 2017 research project at Stanford University that said its AI system correctly identified gay men 83% of the time in an analysis of some 35,000 facial images.

Large-scale use of such systems has yet to take place in Europe, but a ban by the 27-member bloc would establish a red line for the future of technology in Europe and beyond, said Daniel Leufer. , Access Now European Policy Analyst.

“You can only think of horrible uses of this technology, especially for trans and non-binary people, such as regulating access to the toilet,” Leufer said.

Non-binary people do not identify as male or female.

Advocates are also concerned about the application of the technology in places such as border checkpoints, where face scans can be used to identify travelers, and in advertising.

Last year, Access Now protested an advertising system in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, which used facial recognition technology to display different advertisements to passers-by based on their perceived gender.

Keyes said gender-detecting AI has been used on a small scale in Europe – citing a Berlin program that used facial scans to offer women discounted tickets to Equal Pay Day.

AI systems that automatically categorize the population into two sexes reinforce gender stereotypes, Keyes said.

“You can’t have a gender recognition system that doesn’t contribute to some kind of prejudice,” Keyes said.

Such technology will also not work in transgender or non-binary people, added the researcher: “If we start to adopt this technology, millions of people will be excluded from it. (Reporting by Avi Asher-Schapiro in Oakland, Calif., @AASchapiro; Additional reporting by Rachel Savage in London; Editing by Helen Popper and Hugo Greenhalgh. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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