Never Judge a Book by its Face.

In modern America, when people think about racism, sexism, homophobia, and other manners of oppression and unfair judgment, they don’t usually focus on biometrics and facial recognition. Interestingly enough, that seems to be the way governments and businesses are identifying individuals’ demographic information.  The question must be asked, “are they doing this in a fair and ethical manner?” The answer appears to be no.

In times of unrest, and rebellion, national governments (such as Egypt’s) have begun to use facial recognition technology to document and identify participants in the rebel-causes.  While this already violates privacy rights to some, this isn’t even the most intrusive way the technology is being used.  Facial recognition is now being used to unfairly, and sometimes incorrectly, determine facts about a person’s lifestyle and preferences.

While I understand private businesses and organizations using the technology for security reasons, the spread of this technology into a more public sphere concerns me. Many companies are now looking into street light sensors that not only identify outdoor conditions and cell phones (probably hacks them too), but also uses facial recognition technology to gather data about you and identify you in the future. This kind of constant surveillance comes off as a bit too 1984ish for me.  I’ve always considered the fact that I can walk around without a cowbell on to be a vital aspect of American freedom.

Some individuals, like Zach Blas, have begun to protest the intrusiveness, and the idea that faces are so indicative of who we a person is.  Blas, and many others, have started groups and organizations attempting to address this rising concern.  The groups protest the notion that a face is something inherently familiar and totally knowable, by humans or by technology.

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Zach Blas fights facial recognition technology by researching and designing masks that not only disrupt the scanners, but also instill a feeling of unity and community in the fight for ‘facial freedom.’

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I had no idea that when the X-Box Kinect was first released, it had a great deal of trouble detecting darker skin!  That’s just poor pre-release researching!
  • “”In social movements, the mask becomes this force of collectivization. It’s hiding the individual face so this other, collective demand emerges,” Blas said.  -Tell me that quote didn’t remind you of V for Vendetta!

 

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