Facial Recognition is banned



By Lucas Martin, CONTRIBUTOR

The pros of banning the threatening use facial recognition software from Oakland
I recently watched an episode of Black Mirror–a dystopian technology-focused show on Netflix–which depicted a world similar to ours.
In it, the government of the United Kingdom has secretly adopted facial recognition technology in order to spy on its citizens through artificial bees. The technology was then hijacked by a terrorist and used to spy on, find, and kill hundreds of thousands of people.
This episode represents a society in which facial recognition has been taken to the extreme. Today, we see the beginnings of debate around the technology because these fictionalized accounts are not impossible scenarios.
In July, Oakland became the third city to outright ban facial recognition software, following in the steps of nearby San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts. This was a great move by Oakland – a move that should be replicated at higher levels of government.
Facial recognition software—technology that verifies someone’s identity by comparing a digital or video source to a database of stored images—should be banned across the board.
The potential safety it promises, like matching faces in real-time to those on a wanted list, pales in comparison to its capacity for abuse.
Take, for example, Ousmane Bah, who was wrongfully arrested for a string of store thefts because of facial recognition software. Bah believed that the real culprit used an ID that Bah lost, causing the facial recognition software to place Bah’s face as the culprit.
Local governments have been leading the way in banning facial recognition software, but the number of cities like Nashville and New Orleans that have regulated it are far outweighed by those that have not. Meanwhile, state and federal governments continue to drag their heels on the issue.
Additionally, the technology is biased and not even complete – an MIT study found that error rates for dark-skinned women are about 35 percent, while with white men it is about one percent. The system is clearly flawed.
Even Axon, a supplier of police equipment including body cameras and related software, has stated that it would not include facial recognition tech in its cameras. If companies that supply the tech are not comfortable with its accuracy, why should the general public be?
Citizens should know by now that we cannot trust large governing or commercial bodies with our data. We have already been subjected to data abuse by corporations. The Facebook scandal with Cambridge Analytica and the Google+ scandal are but a few examples. So why would the government be any different?
Facial recognition represents one of the greatest threats to privacy being deployed by governments and corporations alike. We should not be swayed by the honeyed words of those who would see it implemented