Calls for the ban on facial recognition technology (FRT) have been growing in recent months. While FRT has positive uses in our economy, personalization, and law enforcement, there is the real world potential for our freedoms to be violated.
We’ve seen time and again what happens when humanity achieves something we don’t entirely understand. When it comes to social media, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, we are cavemen that have discovered fire.
To put it simply, just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. We have an implied agreement with society that we are going to abide by social norms, and in exchange we’ll enjoy all that society has to offer.
When people violate social norms, there are consequences - maybe we lose friends, we lose our income, we lose our ability to participate in society. On the other hand, when society violates people, there should be consequences as well. When we are consenting to facial recognition (often unknowingly), we are also implying that it will be used responsibly by those wielding that power.
Face recognition algorithms claim a high classification of accuracy (over 90%), but these results are not comprehensive. A growing body of research reveals divergent failure rates across demographic groups, with the lowest accuracy consistently detected in subjects who are female, Black, and 18-30 years old. As asserted by the Algorithmic Justice League, “face surveillance threatens rights including privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association and due process.”
If you are participating in democracy by peaceful means or just walking down the street, you are entitled to do so without discrimination. FRT threatens that right, and the perceived good it can do should not outweigh the power that comes with it.
We should continue to innovate and elevate society with technology, but we also deserve protection from technology that is discriminatory or when it grants power we don’t know how to wield.