A facial recognition system is a technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source. There are different facial recognition techniques in use, such as the generalised matching face detection method and the adaptive regional blend matching method. A report found that agents with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been surreptitiously using facial recognition technology to scan driver’s license photos for information about immigrants who are in the country illegally.
An associate professor of philosophy and religion at Northeastern University, Kay Mathiesen, focused on information and computer ethics and justice, condemned the practice as “damaging” to all citizens, especially minorities. According to her, artificial intelligence might be prone to errors and result in higher rates of misidentification and false arrests. Stricter oversight of the software development process could help to reduce inaccuracies. However, people are getting more aware of what the issues are and how this information can be used and this is a good sign.
The facial recognition story revealed that from 2014 to 2017 ICE officials requested and were granted access to Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license databases in Utah, Vermont, and Washington without the knowledge or consent of motorists. Vermont officials discontinued its searches in 2017 at the behest of its governor Phil Scott.
Mathiesen is concerned about how secure the databases maintained by the DMV are, and wonders if they are susceptible to being hacked by criminals or foreign governments. She is in support of the implementation of court orders, search and seizure warrants, and other legal safeguards in order to limit the use of facial recognition technology by federal and local law enforcement agencies. Her biggest concern is that people will become complacent about unchecked government surveillance, and risk compromising their privacy rights and civil liberties for the sake of national security.
“I think what we really need is to have the transparency of exactly what’s happening so we can have a democratic conversation about what we want as a society the balance to be between security and privacy,” she comments.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman