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Intrusive Facial Recognition Could Make Its Way to the U.S.

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Cutting-edge facial recognition technology has recently made waves in the news with China implementing a sophisticated security initiative with over 200 million surveillance cameras capturing citizens’ every move. This surveillance system monitors the movements of ethnic minorities, blocks entrances to buildings, and even institutes a social credit system that will publicly display the faces of debtors, felons, and addicts.

While this system has yet to make its way over to us, tech companies and private interests like Microsoft and AI Now warn that it might be inevitable. AI Now, a group affiliated with NYU that counts its members from the likes of Microsoft and Google published a paper calling on governments regulate the use of artificial intelligence in facial recognition strategies before they too seriously threaten our civil liberties.

Photo by Nathaniel dahan on Unsplash

The paper argues that communities should have the right to reject the use of such technologies in “both public and private contexts,” stating that a “mere public notice is not sufficient.” AI Now researchers warn of “affect recognition,” a proposed ability of AI-powered facial recognition that is capable of reading people’s emotions and potentially manipulating them, all using the power of machine learning.

Microsoft president Brad Smith voiced his apprehension towards the matter. “We believe it’s important for governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology. The facial recognition genie, so to speak, is just emerging from the bottle. Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues. By that time, these challenges will be much more difficult to bottle back up,” said Smith. 

Facial recognition technology exists in the US, but to a much lesser degree China. Law enforcement employs it in areas like metropolitan Los Angeles, but it does not come with real-time monitoring like China’s system. Other areas utilizing the technology include airports like Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, with brand new facial recognition terminals allowing passengers to check bio-metrically. Earlier this year, facial recognition was used to catch a man who was attempting to illegally enter the country using a false identity.

It’s clear that there are some benefits to implementing facial recognition into our society, but to what degree is the question. Nevertheless, groups like AI Now and Microsoft continue to champion their concern over this kind of technology.

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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