A U.S. government study released this week found that 189 facial recognition algorithms from 99 developers “falsely identified African-American and Asian faces 10 to 100 times more often than Caucasian faces.” Enough. This should be the last such study. We are long overdue for federal governments to regulate or outright ban facial recognition.
This year, the NYPD ran a picture of actor Woody Harrelson through a facial recognition system because officers thought the suspect seen in drug store camera footage resembled the actor. This year China used facial recognition to track its Uighur Muslim population. Next year, we will hopefully realize that all facial recognition in the government’s hands is dangerous.
Facial recognition for personal use is still problematic, but at least that’s a person’s choice. Every day I use Windows Hello to unlock my computer and Face Unlock on my Pixel 4 XL. There are plenty of problems with those and similar technologies, but I can turn them off whenever I want.
When the government is using facial recognition, it’s much harder to opt out. Or it’s impossible. Should facial recognition be used on public transportation? What about security checks at the train station and airport? By the police? No, no, and hell no.
Facial recognition is wrong way too frequently, biased from the get-go, and overall just unreliable. Can it be improved? Sure. Should it be influencing government decisions? Nope. Even when — not if — the technology does get much better, there are plenty of privacy and ethical issues to work through.
Various local governments have already banned it. It’s time for federal governments to follow suit.
Come on, politicians, this should be an easy one. Remember, facial recognition regulation is bipartisan.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.