An Al-assisted crowd control and surveillance system could be used during the 2024 Paris Olympics to monitor attendees and bolster security, according to a draft law seen by AFP, a French international news agency, on December 23rd.
The crowd control system will enhance the capabilities of security services to detect signs of trouble more easily. The system will not use facial-recognition technology, the bill says.
It may prove especially valuable during an ambitious open-air opening ceremony, which is expected to attract a crowd of up to six hundred thousand people.
AI-assisted crowd control system
According to the draft law, the use of an AI-assisted crowd-control system would be an “experimentation” at the 2024 Olympic Games. However, if the surveillance system proves useful, it could be implemented as a security measure at future events.
The system would use “intelligent” security camera software to scan images for suspicious or threatening behavior. It could be an especially useful layer of surveillance and protection during busy events vulnerable to crowd control problems or terrorist attacks.
The draft bill mentioned the implementation of other security measures. Full-body scanners may also be used, and harsher sentencing for hooliganism could be introduced to deter lawbreakers.
In May of this year, Parisian police and sports organizers were heavily criticized for their handling of a crowd crush during the Champions League Final in the French capital.
Over the past decade, French security services have also had to grapple with a heightened threat of terrorism. The deadliest incident occurred in 2015 when Islamist terrorists detonated bombs and opened fire on crowds of civilians in Paris. A total of 130 people were murdered.
Wherever large crowds gather, security services have to anticipate a variety of threats, ranging from drunken disorderliness, crowd crushes, or—in extreme circumstances— terrorist attacks.
Olympic security challenge
The Olympic Games will attract large crowds of people in the French capital. In particular, the opening ceremony could present a complex security challenge due to plans for athletes to parade in a flotilla of about two hundred boats down the Sienne River.
Up to one hundred thousand spectators could gather around the banks of the river alone, with upwards of six hundred thousand spectators watching from street level. Maintaining security over such a wide area with so many people in attendance will not be an easy task.
Proponents of the AI-assisted surveillance system are hoping that the technology will help security services to keep spectators safe during the Games.
A proposal to implement an advanced AI-assisted crowd control and surveillance system could raise significant concerns about privacy and government overreach. These concerns are especially prevalent in recent times where some governments have introduced advanced surveillance systems to track potential dissidents.
According to the bill, however, “No biometric data is used, nor facial recognition technology and it does not enable any link or interconnection or automatic flagging with any other personal data system.”
The measure is scheduled to be debated by the French Parliament in January. President Emmanuel Macron’s government will need support from the opposition for the bill to be passed.
French Olympic organizers and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin have already argued in favor of introducing advanced AI-assisted surveillance systems.