Facial recognition technology, once a darling of Silicon Valley with applications for policing, spying and authenticating identities, is suddenly under fire. Conservative Republicans like Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and liberal Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have strongly criticized the technology. San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Somerville, Mass., have barred all of their government agencies, including the police, from using it. And several Democratic candidates for president have raised deep concerns about it, with one, Senator Bernie Sanders, calling for an outright ban for policing.
We think the senator is right: Stopping this technology from being procured — and its attendant databases from being created — is necessary for protecting civil rights and privacy. But limiting government procurement won’t be enough. We must ban facial recognition in both public and private sectors, before we grow so dependent on it that we accept its inevitable harms as necessary for “progress.” Perhaps over time appropriate policies can be enacted that justify lifting a ban. But we doubt it.
The essential and unavoidable risks of deploying these tools are becoming apparent. A majority of Americans have functionally been put in a perpetual police lineup simply for getting a driver’s license: Their D.M.V. images are turned into faceprints for government tracking with few limits. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are using facial recognition technology to scan state driver’s license databases without citizens’ knowing. Detroit aspires to use facial recognition for round-the-clock monitoring. Americans are losing due-process protections, and even law-abiding citizens cannot confidently engage in free association, free movement and free speech without fear of being tracked.
Read the full piece at The New York Times.