To demonstrate exactly why tougher restrictions—including a ban for government agencies—should be placed on facial recognition technology, digital privacy rights advocates Thursday morning showed up on Capitol Hill to deploy the controversial technology against lawmakers, corporate lobbyists, and even members of the press.
“This should probably be illegal,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, the group behind the effort, in a statement. And that’s the point.
“Until Congress takes action to ban facial recognition surveillance,” Greer said, “it’s terrifyingly easy for anyone—a government agent, a corporation, or just a creepy stalker—to conduct biometric monitoring and violate basic rights at a massive scale.”
The group is using the commercially available Rekognition software, made by Amazon, to scan the faces of thousands of people walking by in Washington, D.C. and then cross-checking those faces with a database to “track down” their possible identities. Part of their “Ban Facial Recognition” demand, Fight for the Future noted that a wide coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups—including Greenpeace, Color of Change, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, and many others—have endorsed their campaign.
As of this writing, according to the ScanCongress.com website, the activists have already scanned the faces of 9,240 people.
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