San Francisco: San Francisco is on track to become the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies, reflecting a growing backlash against a technology that’s creeping into airports, motor vehicle departments, stores, stadiums and home security cameras. Government agencies around the US have used the technology for more than a decade to scan databases for suspects and prevent identity fraud.
But recent advances in artificial intelligence have created more sophisticated computer vision tools, making it easier for police to pinpoint a missing child or protester in a moving crowd or for retailers to analyse a shopper’s facial expressions as they peruse store shelves. Microsoft, while opposed to an outright ban, has urged lawmakers to set limits on the technology, warning that leaving it unchecked could enable an oppressive dystopia reminiscent of George Orwell’s novel “1984.”
“Face recognition is one of those technologies that people get how creepy it is,” said Alvaro Bedoya, who directs Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology. “It’s not like cookies on a browser. There’s something about this technology that really sets the hairs on the back of people’s heads up.”
They worry people will one day not be able to go to a park, store or school without being identified and tracked. Already, a handful of big box stores across the US are trying out cameras with facial recognition that can guess their customers’ age, gender or mood as they walk by, with the goal of showing them targeted, real-time ads on in-store video screens.