Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Biometric Blues: Facial-recognition tech starting to be good enough to threaten privacy

Several recent items related to the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement caught Grits' eye lately:
The rise of facial recognition and other biometric identification technology was an early hobbyhorse on this blog. I stopped covering the topic after civil libertarians lost all the big, related fights at the Legislature over gathering biometric data, particularly from Texans' driver's licenses. (Texas allowed DPS to gather Texas drivers' fingerprints and facial-recognition biometrics from their licenses then almost immediately began to hand the data over to the federal Department of Homeland Security.) But those were bitter, memorable battles, with the losses made more palatable only by the reality that, back then, facial-recognition tech simply wasn't ready for prime time and didn't work well enough to threaten privacy.

Today it's closer, but not quite yet there. But that utilitarian excuse for not confronting totalitarian surveillance tech will soon fall away. Even if facial-recognition is reliable, it's a bad idea as a generalized surveillance tool. So, arguments against it must ultimately rest not on the prospect of errors (right now, they have higher error rates when identifying racial minorities), but on the prospect of privacy vanishing, and a new form of high-tech totalitarianism rising, if the product were to ever work perfectly.

For more thoughts and background on the subject, here's an old blog-post series I wrote headed into the 2005 Texas legislative session:
Looking back, much of it still holds up.


Steven Michael Seys said...

Big Brother is watching you. His name is Mark Zuckerberg.

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