Facial Recognition and the End of Privacy

It’s difficult to talk about humanity’s accomplishments without talking about the failures, the setbacks and the necks that were stepped on to attain those accomplishments.

The industrial revolution ushered in new production methods which led to faster output of goods and services. Great Britain led this revolution but it was due to the slave-trade and political hegemony in the New World and India respectively that made them the dominant player in this revolution.

When it was fun, Facebook was the place to be. Sharing photos, videos and poking one another was something to look forward to. It was kind of like having your real life and reliving it digitally. Too bad the germination stages were based on deception as well as copyright and privacy violations.

We don’t want to knock the vision of technology but the execution leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Not to mention that as good as people can be, they can also be quite nefarious. In the wrong hands, a tool that might have been designed for good can yield a world of trouble.

Portland, Maine held a debate on whether or not to ban facial-recognition technology. The Police Chief opposed the ban, citing that the technology can be used for surveillance of large public gatherings and to locate those ”who have directed substantive threats to a person.”

With the amount of mass shootings happening these days, it seems like a good point. And yet, you have to question why San Francisco and Oakland in California and Somerville in Massachusetts have banned it.

It is because the benefits of facial recognition are not worth the risk. China has thousands of cameras to monitor the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group. If that sounds totalitarian and repressive to you, that’s because it is.

China’s Ministry of Public Security have two plans to facilitate civilian surveillance. One is called “Sharp Eyes” and the other (if you can believe it) is called “Skynet.”

Is the name inspired by Terminator? I really hope so, because if it just came to them as a stroke of insight, that’s hilariously terrifying. What’s the next strategy going to be called? Big Brother?

U.S. lawmakers are also looking into facial recognition technology on a federal level but have not come to a conclusion on whether or not to allow it for public use by government agencies or private companies.

However, hundreds of law enforcement agencies have already began to use such technology. The company behind this tech, Clearview AI, created a database of online images of 3 billion people and allows the user to take a picture of some target and upload it to their application in order to find their target’s public images.

How did Clearview AI get the images for the database? They just took them from Facebook, YouTube and millions of other sites.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t give any approval for Clearview to take my pictures. But maybe there’s some clause in those pesky terms and conditions from Facebook and the other sites that makes this legal.

As for China, their tech-savvy racism is a problem that begins with their surveillance and ends with their imprisonment of one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps. Actually, it’s possible that it won’t end there because we’ve seen this before.

As technology advances, humanity has shown that is still lacks the responsibility to use these tools in good faith. Maybe it’s because people genuinely think they are using it in good faith. Maybe the folks who want to use facial recognition software are keen on catching bad guys. Maybe the Chinese government just want to quench any threat of Muslim violence.

Yeah, maybe. But because we’ve seen people threaten privacy in the name of liberty (like the NSA) and we’ve seen one ethnic group hurt another ethnic group in the name of justice, it all just sounds highly hypocritical.

It seems that we will yield more pages of embarrassment for the history books as we sacrifice more lives to figure out what we really value: community or condemnation?

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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