Major tech companies are selling facial recognition technology far-and-wide, throughout the United States and in Europe, to companies, schools, police departments, and anyone who will pay. The one overriding issue they should consider but don’t is Americans’ rights to privacy.
The impeachment has taken over every House committee and no one is looking at laws to limit this potentially abusive technology in the hands of the tech giants.
SECURITY OVER LIBERTY
Politico says the lack of progress in controlling the expansion of the software is that governments value “security and data collection over privacy and civil liberties.” The result is facial recognition-capable cameras are showing up in every nook and cranny in today’s society, from airports and stadiums to high schools and border crossings.
“Western governments are embracing this technology for their own use, valuing security, and data collection over privacy and civil liberties. And in Washington, President Donald Trump’s impeachment and the death of a key civil rights and privacy champion have snarled expectations for a congressional drive to enact restrictions,” wrote Politico tech reporters Janosch Delcker and Cristiano Lima.
The champion is the late Elijah Cummings.
“The result is an impasse that has left tech companies largely in control of where and how to deploy facial recognition, which they have sold to police agencies and embedded in consumers’ apps and smartphones. The stalemate has persisted even in Europe’s most privacy-minded countries, such as Germany, and despite a bipartisan U.S. alliance of civil-libertarian Democrats and Republicans,” he added.
Another problem is it misidentifies race, especially people of color.
“Facial recognition needs to be stopped before a fait accompli is established,” said Patrick Breyer, a member of the European Parliament.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who is drafting a bill to curb the use of the technology, said in June: “The use of facial recognition technology poses a staggering threat to Americans’ privacy. Your sensitive information should never be collected without your permission, and I’ve called for an outright ban on the sale of biometric data.”
Some cities like San Francisco have placed bans on facial recognition-equipped cameras, but they are the exception.
WE COULD BECOME CHINA
A good example of the dangers it poses can be seen in China as they trail their citizens and apply social credits to each person depending on their good or bad behavior as determined by the State. They have also targeted the Hong Kong protesters and millions of Muslim Uighurs.
In a report published last month, the New York University research group AI Now said that similarly to China, Western powers are using the technology in “oppressive and harmful ways.”
“There is growing evidence that the U.S. is increasingly using AI in oppressive and harmful ways that echo China’s use,” the group wrote. Europe is doing the same.
That is exaggerated — for now, but if we put these cameras everywhere, it will one day be used that way. The proponents are calling it the way of the future. We can’t let that happen. We need devices to turn it off or it will one day be used to pursue the innocent if it hasn’t happened already.
REGULATION NOT OBLITERATION
However, it also helps identify criminals and it adds another level of safety in a dangerous world. One concern from the left is that the government has used it to identify criminals at rallies. That mostly affects the left.
Some believe it has no place in our society, but others see it as a more accurate method of identifying criminals over mug shots, witness identifications, and other data collection methods. It’s another crime fighter, but there are real dangers.
There needs to be a balance, and, frankly, the genie is out of the bottle.
In writing to the Pennsylvania Governor over the cost of funding for security on the frontline in 1755, Ben Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” He was calling for balance.
That is what we need now, some balance.