By Aaron Kesel
The European Union is considering banning facial recognition technology which has raised massive privacy concerns over the years since its inception, risking us walking into George Orwell’s nightmare 1984.
The European Commission is considering a ban on all facial recognition technology in public places for three to five years, the BBC reported.
The Commission hopes to examine the technology during these years with “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed,” the EC’s 18-page white paper on facial recognition writes.
The proposal seeks to add to the already existing regulation surrounding privacy and data rights or the GDPR (General Data Protection Rights). The proposed law seeks to impose restrictions on “both developers and users of artificial intelligence, and urged EU countries to create an authority to monitor the new rules.”
According to the news agency, the proposals come amid calls from politicians and campaigners in the UK to stop the police from using live facial recognition for public surveillance.
Facial recognition technology has shown numerous issues over the years such as racial bias. Other problems notable by Fight For The Future, which ran a campaign against implementing the technology at music venues, cited “dangers to their fans in the form of police harassment including — misidentification, deportation, arrests for outstanding charges during an event and drug use during an event, discrimination at their concerts, and fans in a permanent government database,” all very valid concerns.
Last year, Activist Post consistently reported numerous studies finding that the technology’s accuracy isn’t all it’s marketed to be. Then Big Brother Watch, a watchdog observing UK Metropolitan Police trials, stated the technology misidentified members of the public, including a 14-year-old black child in a school uniform who was stopped and fingerprinted by police, as potential criminals in as much as 96 percent of scans, according to the organization in a press release.
Activist Post Recommended Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
In eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018, the technology gave “false positives” that wrongly identified individuals as crime suspects when an individual passed through an area with a facial recognition camera. Although the UK is now in the process of leaving the EU by the end of this month, the trial showed 96 percent of scans used by police to track watch list suspects were inaccurate, that’s a big deal!
Still, even after the UK leaves the EU, the country will remain under its laws until at least the end of 2020.
No matter where you look, BIG brother has been pushing the use of surveillance technology all over, not just the UK, from Amazon helping law enforcement with its Facial Rekogntion software, DHS wanting to use it for border control, to the Olympics wanting to use the tech for security.
Even retail is pushing for the technology as an anti-theft mechanism to be introduced in a thousands of stores using biometric facial recognition software FaceFirst to build a database of shoplifters, as Activist Post reported.
Some of the biggest airports in the country — estimated at 16 airports across the U.S. — are now scanning us as we board international flights. While CBP (Customs And Border Protection) expects to scale up the program to cover more than 97 percent of passengers flying outside of the U.S. by 2021, according to Nextgov.
Further, the policy director of U.S. CBP believes that facial recognition has already become essential. The agency’s head Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner has also hilariously said that its facial tracking technology isn’t surveillance, as Activist Post reported.
In 2017, Homeland Security clarified their position on domestic spying, stating that Americans who don’t want their faces scanned leaving the country “shouldn’t travel.”
“The only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling,” the DHS wrote in a document.
The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate to slow down the roll out. Activists, politicians, academics and even police forces are expressing serious concerns over the impact facial recognition could have on our society.
Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.
A Senate bill introduced last March would force companies who want to use facial recognition technology on consumers to first get their consent. If that happens, as soon as the ink is dry Amazon’s Ring and Amazon’s Facial Rekognition could be banned across the U.S.
Congress under the House Oversight Committee recently held a bipartisan discussion on the issue of regulating the use of facial recognition technology and biometric cameras.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said, “there are virtually no controls …. Whatever walk of life you come from, you may be a part of this [surveillance] process.”
The committee’s top Republican Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) also expressed, “It’s time for a time out” on government use of the surveillance technology.
Also occurring last year, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) branch reversed a previous proposed plan to require all U.S. citizens to participate in its facial recognition entry/exit programs after backlash as Activist Post reported.
This was after Activist Post reported that Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called for an end to facial recognition in airports due to lack of oversight on the technology.
Privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft, which also markets its own facial recognition system, have all raised concerns over the technology, pointing to issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement.
The ACLU also recently sued several agencies including the FBI and DHS in its fight against facial recognition technology for violating individual citizens privacy rights, Activist Post reported.
Both the ACLU and Fight For The Future, as well as numerous other groups, have called for an end to the dangerous technology and the voices are getting louder. Already, we have had several wins in this long fight and there are signs of hope. First, San Francisco banned facial recognition technology being used by the government in May of this year; then Somerville, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California followed suit. Now, the cream of the crop may happen as the EU seeks to ban the technology which has turned China into an Orwellian dictator’s wet dream.
Fight For The Future has previously launched a first-of-its-kind interactive map that tracks where in the U.S. facial recognition technology is being used and where it is being resisted, along with a tool-kit for local activists who want to help kickstart a ban in their city or state, as Activist Post reported.
Consent to be identified by the government whenever and wherever we go is approval to have the government decide whether, when, and where we are allowed to travel like China. Put bluntly: it is very dangerous.
If we consent, we normalize this type of technology and we are telling the military-industrial complex and police state that it’s okay to force this tech down our throats and take more of our rights. If we confront them, like in San Francisco, Somerville, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California, we show that we care about our rights and won’t have our rights taken away without putting up a fight.
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