The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is raising awareness about how the U.S. government is utilizing facial recognition technology without gathering U.S. citizens’ consent.
Specifically, the FBI is piloting Amazon recognition surveillance solution, gathering data about people’s faces, irises, walking patterns and voices, and using that information to identify, track and monitor us, the ACLU reports. “The agency can match or request a match of our faces against at least 640 million images of adults living in the U.S.”
Because the FBI is denying the ACLU’s requests for information on how its agents are tracking and monitoring faces, the organization filed a complaint, and is taking the government branch to court. The ACLU hopes that the court will order the FBI to “turn over all records concerning their use of face recognition technology.”
The ACLU says that the FBI’s secrecy surrounding how it uses these data is suspicious and concerning. The organization says this is especially problematic due to the FBI’s history of “troubling political policing practices,” including allegedly black mailing Martin Luther King Jr., and its involvement with the death of Black Panther Leader Fred Hampton. More recently, the ACLU says that the FBI has wasted the opportunities provided by this technology to “spy on Black activists.”
Another red flag the organization points to is the shaky accuracy of surveillance technology, including studies showing that this tech “is prone to significant racial and gender bias.” One study found that “face recognition technology can misclassify the faces of dark skinned women up to 35 percent of the time;” another found that “emotion recognition” software identified Black men as “more angry” than white men; another found that face surveillance algorithms discriminate against transgender people.
As a result, states, like California, are joining the ACLU’s side and taking action to protect civilian’s privacy. They are also requesting that law enforcement agencies increase transparency about how, when, and why they are using facial recognition tech, and what it will be used for. In doing so, privacy advocates hope to create a more symbiotic relationship between people and technology.