We’re Being Blinded to the Danger of Facial Recognition

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We’ve become increasingly comfortable with facial recognition technology. We use it to unlock our phones and to skip the security line at the airport. But the convenience of facial recognition is blinding us to its dangers.

Georgetown University School of Law privacy expert Clare Garvie put together a video that explains why you should be concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology, even if you think you have “nothing to hide.”

According to Garvie, police databases now contain images of nearly half of all Americans. She argues that without some restrictions on facial recognition, we’re rapidly hurtling toward a Chinese-style surveillance state.

As Garvie puts it, Americans are basically in a perpetual police lineup.

“The digital equivalent of police walking through a crowd and yanking each of our IDs out of our pockets. You could be picked out, investigated, possibly arrested and sent to jail … That’s a violation of your privacy and your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Garvie outlines three aspects of facial recognition that concern her the most.

  1. How it’s used — police violate our right to due process.
  2. How it is manipulated
  3. It is biased. There is a significantly higher chance that the technology will misidentify African-Americans and other minorities.

“If we don’t implement legal restrictions on face recognition, the future looks like a Chinese-style surveillance state, one that violates our right to privacy, our right to anonymity in public, and our right to free speech.”

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