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Privacy advocates: Dems’ “technological wall” proposal could do “even more harm” than Trump’s wall

Privacy advocates: Dems’ “technological wall” proposal could do “even more harm” than Trump’s wall
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested a “technological wall,” with increased electronic scrutiny of border traffic as an alternative to President Trump’s proposed physical wall, the internet freedom group Fight for the Future quickly circulated an online petition against the idea.

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Border surveillance, including with drones, and inspection of electronic devices are already too intrusive, the group says.

“Any expansion of these programs at the border will have a profoundly chilling effect on free expression and our basic constitutional rights,” Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer says in an email to Fast Company. “We’re particularly concerned about the implementation of untested ‘hot new thing’ technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence or algorithmic ‘risk assessment,’ which have frequently been shown to have racial bias built in.”

Such programs could also expand from the borders to track people within the country, she warns.

Pelosi proposed putting in technology to scan cars crossing the border at authorized crossings where, she said in a press conference last week, the majority of illegal drugs entering the country are believed to pass.

Fight for the Future also isn’t in favor of a physical wall at the border, a proposal by Trump that’s also opposed by Congressional Democrats, leading to a standoff that has now become the longest government shutdown in history.

“They’re both terrible ideas that undermine basic human rights,” Greer writes.”That said, there are ways that a ‘technological wall’ and calls for increased surveillance could actually do even more harm over time. Ubiquitous electronic monitoring of individuals, using software to determine how ‘risky’ someone is or whether they should be detained, or using flawed facial recognition programs to target people could impact millions or billions of people. Technology doesn’t stay put–if Democrats make this their main response to Trump’s absurd call for a physical wall, they’ll be actively increasing the demand for this dangerous technology. Anything that’s deployed at the border today could easily be rolled out on the streets of Chicago or Los Angeles tomorrow.”

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