ReKognition: The Face Of Surveillance, Useful or Dangerous?

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Jacob Snow, ACLU attorney, and Robert Scheer discuss the close connection of private enterprises and the official surveillance state.  They discuss Amazon’s Rekognition program, and how “Amazon’s Face Recognition Falsely Matched 28 Members of Congress With Mugshots,” an article by Snow.  

Scheer and Snow further discuss the consequences of using facial recognition in law enforcement against people of color: “We’re in an environment where immigrants are being targeted and harmed, and where people of color are being targeted and are being persecuted. And the idea that facial recognition could become widespread as a tool of law enforcement is going to have disproportionate impacts on people of color, on political protesters, and also on immigrants. And once that infrastructure is built, once face surveillance is widespread in society, the damage to those communities can’t be undone.”   

Scheer notes: “Private businesses increasingly connected with what used to be called the military-industrial complex it’s now the military-industrial information complex. And they just move seamlessly with the intelligence agencies, with police departments. They are an integral part of a surveillance society.” Snow, however, remains cautiously optimistic: “Companies are certainly powerful…but the thing that I find is an antidote is the fact that our political process can work...elected representatives can impose meaningful restrictions on these companies; we’ve seen it happen in the past with some efficacy, and I believe that it can happen in the future.” 

Jacob Snow staff headshot, courtesy of the ACLU of Northern California.



Joshua Scheer