Privacy is a big topic on this blog, and today, JULY 9, 2019, was an interesting day in the 21st Century privacy department.
It’s a significant day because just about every newspaper features an article about facial recognition software and how it may be misused by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE). This government agency uses the facial recognition software to go into state driver’s license databases and collect information about the faces associated with those licenses. This is accomplished without the permission of the people whose images they scan.
As a privacy-conscious person, I turn off facial recognition on Facebook, on my phone, and for my photos, but I never considered my driver’s license. I also did not think that researchers might be harvesting photos from social media, using them to test their facial recognition products.
In early 2019 the topic of facial scanning began to pop up more and more in newspapers and magazines. The best article I’ve read on the topic, one that helped me get a greater understanding of what is going on, is a March 12, 2019, NBC News piece, Facial Recognition’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: Millions of Online Photos Scraped Without Consent.
This article includes information about facial recognition research and researchers, providing an overview of the subject. The author, Olivia Solon, points out for the software to work well, it needs to be improved and tweaked over and over by scanning more and more faces. To do this the researchers grab photographs from the web, using them without the permission of the people who own the images.
We are slowly giving away more and more of our most personal data and now — in what might be called the ultimate digital footprint — information about our faces. For instance, at airports, we are told that new facial scanners are in operation instead of passport scanners, but no one mentions the possibility of opting out of the facial recognition option, which we all have a right to do and using a passport scanner instead. Moreover, do those scans probably go into a permanent database somewhere?
In our connected 21st Century world, our lives seem to change at warp speed, so we continually need to learn more about those changes. So do our legislators.
Check Out These Articles to Learn More
- Facial Recognition Has Already Reached a Breaking Point — Wired
- Biased and Wrong? Facial Recognition Tech in the Dock — BBC
- Senators Introduce Bill to Regulate Facial Recognition Technology — The Hill
- I Opted Out of Facial Recognition at the Airport: It Wasn’t Easy – Wired
- ICE Used Facial Recognition to Mine State Driver’s License Databases — New York Times