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The Dangers of Facial Recognition Software

Facial recognition software has the possibility to change public life completely. Countries and cities should be careful to consider the consequences of adopting the technology.
June 26, 2019, 10am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Security cameras on a building
Marc Nozell

CCTV's are so common in the world today that it’s hard for a person to be sure if they are not being tracked by facial recognition software or not. Often without our knowledge, we might all be participating in a beta test of policing software that we never signed up for.

The temptation for police forces and states to use facial recognition technology is easy to understand. The technology is cheap and widely available, but it’s also far from proven. "A recent test of Amazon’s facial recognition software by the American Civil Liberties Union found that it falsely identified 28 members of Congress as known criminals, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus disproportionately represented," The Guardian reports. Some officials may be comfortable with those kinds of error rates, arguing that no arrest would be made without human intervention, but it’s easy to imagine a person who's wrongly been swept up into a criminal investigation feeling differently.

Even as the technology improves, as it likely will, there should be real concerns for privacy and who might be able to use this data. "It is not just governments who will be interested in the results. The software is freely available and cheap," The Guardian points out. Purveyors of ransomware, blackmailers, and other unscrupulous people have plenty of uses for it. It's crucial that laws be enacted quickly to protect the public and public life from this threat, according to the article.

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Published on Sunday, June 9, 2019 in The Guardian
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