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article imageTime to ban facial recognition technology, says Liberty

By Tim Sandle     Jun 9, 2019 in Technology
Civil liberties campaign group Liberty has described facial recognition technology as "arsenic in the water of democracy" and has called on law enforcement agencies to stop using controversial imaging platforms.
Automated facial recognition is considered by many civil liberties groups as presenting a fundamental threat to individual freedom. Such groups are of the view that the technology should be prohibited from use in public places. According to Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty: “I don’t think it should ever be used. It is one of, if not the, greatest threats to individual freedom, partly because of the intimacy of the information it takes and hands to the state without your consent, and without even your knowledge, and partly because you don’t know what is done with that information.”
Liberty, established in 1934, is a British advocacy group that campaigns to challenge injustice, protect civil liberties and promote human rights. There are several reasons put forward why facial recognition should not be used by police forces in public spaces. These include privacy (where images are captured and used without consent); the risk of inaccuracies, which means innocent bystanders are getting identified as suspects; and reason relating to precisely how police services might use (and potentially abuse) the technology.
READ MORE: Amazon holds off Rekognition revolt
There are also concerns that facial recognition software might be racially biased, as raised by U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Reps. John Lewis and Judy Chu in relation to Amazon Rekognition. The U.S. politicians have called on Amazon to explain how the technology works and where it will be used.
The concerns expressed by Liberty come after police forces in England and Wales have begun to use automated facial recognition technology to to scan crowds for suspected criminals in city centers, as well as music concerts, sporting events and during public demonstrations. Liberty is concerned that the application of such technology moves into uncharted invasive state surveillance.
Other places have taken a different stance, such as San Francisco, which has become is first U.S. city to ban police use of facial recognition technology. In May 2019, city supervisors voted eight to one in favor of the “Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance.”
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