On December 14, 2019 Annalee Newitz in the New Scientist wrote:
‘Who owns your face? Smart doorbells containing cameras can be fun, but we can’t be sure what pictures of our faces are used for – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg’
The data captured by these devices is uploaded to server farms where the data is mined for the ‘better-good’ of the company supplying the device, ‘but also for you’; but does the use of data end there? The answer is no, for the data can be access with your authority if you own a device by police and other services, and obviously governments are taking a high (low) level interest in this data.
The problem is that the police and other government agencies who access this data will do so and then run facial recognition software, which is currently very unreliable, particularly when it comes to people of colour. Obviously, the tech companies are working on shortening this gap, and they are thinking outside the box to do so (like Google hiring a contractor to take photographs of the homeless to increase the range of their app)
But it is not just tech companies, it is also governments. When you have a chance research the deal that the Chinese government struck with the Zimbabwe government to do amass surveillance of the faces of Zimbabweans; and there are other things that the Chinese government have done that really make you despair for the human race and its civil liberties.
As a sideline to this article, tucked in a side strip on page seven of the New Scientist, was an article about a DNA site being sold to a firm aiding the police. The GEDmatch site has more than 1.2 million people and their results stored there, and the US police used this site to trace a suspected serial killer, and this site has been bought by Verogen whose CEO, Brett Williams, stated:
‘…a vision for the site that focuses on solving crimes, not just connecting family members via DNA’
obviously, he and his team foresee a very lucrative market in government and government agency circles.
India has also announced that it wants (intends) to build one of the largest facial recognition systems in the world. The question must be asked what is the Indian Government’s reason? Also, considering my note on facial recognition software being unreliable for people of colour, what does this really mean for a country which has major problems inherently with the social groups who live in the country?
Maya Wang at Human Rights watch, said:
…The proposed system won’t just affect privacy, it will have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to exercise other rights, such as freedom of assembly or expression…
In George Orwell’s story “1984” he used the phrase ‘Big Brother is Watching You’. The phrase referred to the government’ surveillance of the people (by the people and for the people) by a myriad of techniques including listening devices and cameras. This was reinforced through the use of posters used by the government to reinforce that the government wants complete obedience…
The phrase has since become a symbolic representation of dictators and dictatorial regimes … but people don’t say this phrase outwardly in those regimes!
Now today’s government will site the fact of global terrorism and their need for ‘Big Brother’ techniques to combat, but one must ask at what cost to our rights and civil liberties. Where and what point do we say enough is enough, or will it be too late when we do say it, will the barn door be blown away and the horse long gone?
The European Union is considering banning facial recognition for up to five years, however with Brexit being undertaken by the UK it is more than conceivable that Westminster and all the various government quangos will jump quickly (and quietly) on the band wagon to say they urgently need this technology now that we have to go on our own. Will this also have an impact on our border relationships with Ireland the border between North and South?
But where did CCTV start?
In October 1942, German engineers led by Wernher von Braun, sat in a remote control watching a television screen and monitored the test of the V2 (the Vergeltungswaffe or “vengeance weapon”. This control room was situated some 2.5km (1.4 miles) away from the launch pad. So why is this the birth of CCTV and monitoring ‘Big Brother’ style; from these modest beginnings that monitoring developed to the extent it is today.
…the pictures in that control room were the first example of a video feed being used not for broadcasting, but for real-time monitoring, in private – over a so-called “closed circuit”. Tim Hartford (Jan 2020).
CCTV was the start of what has now developed into an extremely large and lucrative industry for some, and the demolishing of civil liberties for many.
- How worried should we be about ‘Big Brother’ technology?
- Meadowhall facial recognition scheme troubles watchdog
- Who owns your face?
- DNA site GEDmatch sold to firm helping US police solve crime