Face Facts: A Forum on Facial Recognition Technology, Project No. P115406
I have a problem with facial recognition technology when video and photos in public places are stored and combined with link or network analysis to track someone's movements over time. This technology has the potential to damage the work of anyone whose job involves taking on different roles at different points in time: for example, a new form of protest has arisen in China in which protestors simply mill about a designated protest site without carrying signs, such that the government cannot easily arrest the protesters. The government, however, could begin to arrest people by combining facial recognition technology with surveillance tapes to deduce when a person is intentionally showing up at multiple protest sites. Similarly, a detective or intelligence officer working undercover in a criminal enterprise or foreign country could be tortured or killed if the gang or foreign government uses private sector technology to match his face with his graduation photo from the police academy or military training. As a prospective member of the intelligence community myself, I can say that the advancement of facial recognition technology has me personally concerned for my safety, as I have little control over my friends taking my picture at social events and posting it to their Facebook page. Further, the technology could be used in the case of ugly divorce proceedings, by someone seeking to locate photographs of his or her spouse in compromising circumstances. And it would pose a more-intrusive means for employers to illegally screen applicants based on sexual orientation, religion, medical history, and so on. Imagine an employer taking an innocuous photograph of an interviewee during and interview, uploading it to Facebook or using Google's image search powered by facial recognition technology, and finding photos of the interviewee in a gay pride parade, celebrating with friends at a mosque event, or at a rally for people living with HIV. The employer could then refuse to hire the person based on prejudice or concerns about the cost of health insurance, without ever asking sensitive questions that could lead the interviewee to suspect discriminatory practices. In short, this technology has the potential to severely impinge upon the privacy of Americans and curtail the ability of law enforcement and intelligence officers to do their job. If technology developed in the US is then used abroad, it could also be used by despotic regimes to consolidate their power. These serious problems, in my opinion, far outweigh the potential benefit that a marketing agency would gain in better measuring the economic preferences of potential customers.