Is There a Right to ‘Facial Anonymity’? - Unmasp - experience exhibiting blog

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Is There a Right to ‘Facial Anonymity’?

Is There a Right to ‘Facial Anonymity’?

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facial recognition

Female head with a biometric polygon map of facial features superimposed. The identification of a behavioural or physical trait for recognition purposes is known as biometrics, and is used for facial recognition software. Photo by Martin Jolicoeur via Flickr

Tech companies are increasingly denying police access to facial recognition technology in order to avoid further bias based on sex and race, according to The Cornell Daily Sun.

In response to growing concerns about the technology, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have all imposed limitations or bans on the selling of facial recognition software to police in the United States.

One instance of racial bias in the practice of using of facial recognition technology is the wrongful arrest of Robert Julian-Borchak Williams. An algorithm misidentified Williams with an image of a shoplifter from surveillance footage.

Williams was kept in custody for 30 hours, then released on a $1000 personal bond.

. “A lot of these algorithms that have been developed are including the biases of the people who develop them,” said  Chinasa Okolo, a Ph.D student in computer science at Cornell University.

Addressing the increasing threats to privacy in the digital world, a team of developers have created a software called Fawkes that could potentially curb efforts made on behalf of facial recognition technologies and protect the privacy of the individual, The New York Times reports.

The software is intended to convert an image– a selfie, for instance–  by “subtly altering some of the features that facial recognition systems depend on when they construct a person’s face.”

Some claim that banning facial recognition technology altogether is the only solution to maintaining security. However, others, including Joseph Atick, a facial recognition pioneer, doubts the idea that any software could undo or amend the “damage” already done.

“The cat is out of the bag,” Dr. Atick stated, commenting on the mass volume of images people have already publicly made available. “Only lawmakers can ensure that people have a right to facial anonymity.”

Additional Reading:  Facial Recognition and the Media, Power Point presentation by Clare Garvie, Georgetown University Center on Privacy and Technology, to Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium, February, 2020

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