Paris 2024 Olympics: algorithmic video surveillance at the Games, its detractors denounce “ever more intrusive” technology

Paris 2024 Olympics: algorithmic video surveillance at the Games, its detractors denounce “ever more intrusive” technology

Paris sera sous vidéosurveillance algorithmique cet été. MAXPPP – Vincent Isore

Transport, public roads, train stations: algorithmic video surveillance will offer itself a life-size baptism at the Paris Olympic Games, under the worried eye of its detractors who see in the experiment planned until now rsquo;in 2025 a prelude to its generalization

These "augmented" equipped with image analysis software "are intended to detect predetermined events in real time", defined the law "Olympic and Paralympic Games" adopted by Parliament in mid-April 2023.

This text authorizes the use of algorithmic video surveillance (VSA) in eight situations, in particular to identify fire outbreaks, crowd movements, abandoned objects, the presence of a vehicle or ;rsquo;a person in a prohibited area in order to alert firefighters, police or gendarmes.

"intrusive"technologies

It could be tested for "sporting, recreational or cultural events" which would be "particularly exposed to the risk of acts of terrorism or serious attacks on the safety of people", regulates the law.

But the deployment of this tool is strongly criticized by associations defending individual freedoms, who judge that it "opens the way" to technologies "always more intrusive" such as "facial recognition& ;quot;, according to Katia Roux, advocacy officer at Amnesty International France.

No facial recognition ensures interior

None of the solutions proposed by the four companies selected by the State allows facial recognition, however, assures the Ministry of the Interior. And events requiring the use of algorithmic video surveillance will be subject to a prefectural decree specifying "the temporality, location and reasons", underlines Beauvau.

The Parisian company Wintics is one of the four beneficiaries of the VSA public market, for an amount of 8 million euros. Its co-founder Mathias Houllier describes how his software works.

Chinese shadows

On his computer screen, pretext images of video surveillance of a street, enriched with colored shapes to demarcate prohibited parking zones.

"The operator will select vehicles which should not be in this zone", details- he. It then sets a "trigger threshold" of 20 seconds beyond which an alert is transmitted for & quot;draw the operator's attention to an event".

The software "does not analyze faces, does not read license plates, it does not use identification methods, it will only outline objects like Chinese shadow systems", assures Mathias Houllier.

Software configuration tests took place in March during two concerts by the Depeche Mode group in Paris. Other operations of the same type with SNCF and RATP had been announced by Beauvau. In mid-February, the ministry judged that it was still "too early" to assess the number of so-called cameras "intelligent" which will be deployed during the 2024 Olympics.

Since 2019, 3 255 cameras installed in  Yvelines

Colleges, fire stations or departmental establishments, the Yvelines department has installed since 2019, in or around 150 sites, 3 255 video surveillance cameras equipped with an anti-algorithmic device -intrusion.

At night, when an individual crosses a virtual line in the image, it causes a modification of pixels which triggers an audio signal transmitted to the Versailles departmental image supervision center (CDSI).

In front of the wall of screens on which the images are broadcast in real time, an officer then transmits the individual's report to the police services.

Technological one-upmanship

"A human being cannot watch 3 255 alarms simultaneously, it’s impossible, so this system allows us to target intrusions& ;quot;, justifies Mme Damas. "If we come to the VSA, it’s because video surveillance has become commonplace, it’s been deployed on a massive scale, but that humans are no longer enough to control it, so we add an algorithmic layer", replies Thomas Dossus, senator Europe Ecologie-Les Verts.

The elected official denounces a "technological overbidding" and fears &quot ;that we end up lifting all the barriers". Amount of the department's investment: 20 million euros for all equipment, explains Laurent Rochette, general director of Seine et Yvelines digital.

The manager puts forward a report of 42 arrests in 2023 thanks to this system, which must be extended to public roads, and insists on its dissuasive aspect. "There has never been an independent, objective evaluation that proves the effectiveness of these technologies in limiting crime, in the fight against terrorism& quot;, retorts Katia Roux, who fears that the Olympics will accelerate their deployment. The Amnesty activist cites the example of the London Games in 2012.

Surveillance technologies, notably facial recognition, had been tested there and "at the end of the event, these so-called exceptional measures remained& quot;, she notes.

"France unfortunately fits into this trend by becoming, with the Paris Olympics, the first EU member state to legalize video surveillance algorithmic", worries Katia Roux.

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