Along with every other technological advancement, facial recognition has also joined in. Many companies and softwares use it in their products to identify the person(s) opening a device or for security reasons. In recent news, Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) and the U.S. Secret Service have been receiving criticism for their decision to install facial recognition biometrics in their chosen areas.
Your Face Might Not be Safe Out There
Amazon launched its facial recognition system, Rekognition, in 2016 and since then, there has been quite a lot of controversy over it. Amazon was accused of giving away the facial recognition software/tools to different law enforcement agencies, according to a FOIA request that the ACLU submitted. Many civil rights groups and organizations have reached out to Amazon to put a stop to this, as it could be a potential threat to vulnerable individuals and communities.
Although a tool used by many businesses and that has proven to be somewhat successful, it still poses as an ethical concern to many. According to The Washington Post, facial recognition allows strangers using the software to identify individuals who don't wish to be identified.
ACLU ran a test using Amazon’s recognition software where the software ended up misidentifying people of color in the database. They cross referenced 25,000 mugshots with photos of Congress members. From the test, the people of color who were “identified” accounted for 40% of the wrongly matched faces when they actually accounted for only 20%.
Technology and Civil Liberties Director for the ACLU in Northern California, Nicole Ozer, mentions that once powerful surveillance systems like these are built, the harm can't be undone. Yes, it is true that many companies and organizations do use facial recognition and that there are benefits to it, but once it gets out of hand it has the power to track protestors, target immigrants, and spy on neighborhoods, according to The Washington Post.
Similarly, the Secret Service has just started testing a facial recognition system as a means of protection for the president and members of the White House. Although they haven’t revealed what company’s facial recognition system they are using, the Secret Service had security cameras installed outside the White House. These cameras installed with the facial recognition technology allows images of people to be taken and then matched those images to “people of interest”.
This could potentially pose a problem, seeing as numerous studies, as well as research by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, shows a lot of facial recognition technology is more likely to mistakenly identify people of color, which can lead to wrongful accusations and arrests.
Just like Amazon’s software was a concern to many privacy and civil rights groups, the same goes for the Secret Service's actions. According to NBC, these groups worry that the government can "target" anyone with these cameras and software. Hence, it was advised by the Secret Service that if you don't want to be identified, avoid the area until they are done testing out the surveillance program.
So much of our everyday lives are controlled by one technology or another. Whether it’s our cameras on our smartphones or Delta’s (DAL - Free Report) facial recognition terminal, there are opportunities everywhere to capture anyone’s photograph and have it analyzed, identified and stored in some database.
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