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It’s time to ban all government use of face recognition: digital rights group

It’s time to ban all government use of face recognition: digital rights group
[Photo: Flickr user Ralf Steinberger]

Fight for the Future, the digital rights advocacy group, is calling for a nationwide ban on government use of facial recognition.

The group says the technology is just too dangerous to civil liberties to allow government agencies to use it, even with regulation. It launched a website where people can contact their legislators and urge them to support a ban.

“Imagine if we could go back in time and prevent governments around the world from ever building nuclear or biological weapons. That’s the moment in history we’re in right now with facial recognition,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, in a statement. “This surveillance technology poses such a profound threat to the future of human society and basic liberty that its dangers far outweigh any potential benefits. We don’t need to regulate it, we need to ban it entirely.”

San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts, recently banned local agencies from using facial recognition, and other cities and states are considering restrictions. While law enforcement agencies sometimes say the technology is valuable for identifying and locating suspects, critics say it’s often proven racially biased. They also worry that it could effectively lead to a surveillance state, where people are automatically tracked as they travel from place to place.

The federal government continues to use facial recognition technology for a variety of purposes: The Washington Post recently reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement run facial recognition searches on images from state driver’s license databases, and the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection have announced plans to deploy facial scan technology at airports.

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