Facial recognition isn't just bad because it invades privacy: it's because privacy invasions fuel discrimination

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/20/shadowy-data-brokers.html


If he had been around when computers were invented, I feel like Cory would have probably been railing against them.

Facial recognition is not good or bad, inherently. It can be used for useful purposes, it can be used for sketchy purposes — it’s just technology. It’s not nuclear weapons, or mustard gas, or other technologies that are inherently weapons.

The hyperbole is a little ridiculous, but it is part of the bb and Doctorow brands at this point, I suppose. If you’re against the government using facial recognition, I get it. The police? I get it. Private organizations, if it’s causing actual problems? Dissect the heck out of it. But this idea that it’s inherently a bad thing, when there are plenty of banal and useful scenarios in which it can be used? Silly.


…unless it goes here

I’m betting the duke of Edinburghs’ would

That would be Clearview AI (initially called Smartcheckr), and this is what the NYT piece linked at the top is about.

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Bruce is wrong when he says there is only one law that regulates data brokers. Everyone with data on people inside the European Union is regulated by the 28 national laws that implement GDPR.


Just like guns, you mean? Or nuclear weapons? :grinning:

I don’t see many uses of facial recognition that are necessary or beneficial, some may offer more convenience, but that’s it.

But we already know that facial recognition is dangerous, used for repression, discrimination and invasion of privacy. So the “just technology” argument is pretty naive.

What’s next? The best defense against a bad guy with face recognition is a good guy with face recognition?


Ooops and thanks.

As an irony addict, it’s somehow unfair to me that Thiel isn’t more roundly mocked on all platforms, for as many reasons as possible.

I read that not only has he got his own fortress-mansion thing in New Zealand (as noted on bOING) but it’s got a panic room in it.

The “inject himself with young people’s blood” was, I thought, peak irony.

If I were pitching Thiel as a character in a screenplay, I can hear the rest of the writers’ room erupt with accusations of unbelievability, or that I go too far.


You must have stopped reading my post at that sentence, as I explicitly mentioned it’s difference from weaponry just a liiiittle further down… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

You’re right, I totally missed your second paragraph, but not the third. So I was lucky, my second paragraph still addresses your argument.

Cars and airplanes and paper are also all used to these ends. Every piece of technology ever invented, even the most benign, can be used toward ill ends. Who gets to be the final arbiter of which ones are OK? You?

Ah, if it were that simple. But you yourself excluded weapons. Which can be used for hunting, or for sports. How does what you say not contradict your own argument?

Listen, I’m kind of over this here little “discussion.” If you can present an argument as to why facial recognition is inherently different than many other forms of technology, I’d love to hear it, and am willing to give it a listen. I have seen no such argument so far, and now you’re just trying to pick apart what I’m saying, completely ignoring the topic at hand. Ciao!

In your first post you make a distinction; things that are inherently weapons, and other stuff, e.g. face recognition.

My argument is that we have reached a level of weaponization of face recognition so that we should ban it internationally, because it does a lot more harm than good. That’s makes it different from technologies like encryption, democracy, or pressure cooking.

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Encryption can be and is used by criminals and terrorists. Democracy can be easily hijacked and lead to Hitlers and Donald Trumps. Pressure cookers can easily be turned into bombs a la the Boston Bombings.

Again, my point is, who gets to be the arbiter? It seems very much like you’d like to be. But that isn’t going to happen. There are plenty of banal uses for facial recognition, and other forms of ML. Why not just ban certain applications? Your argument fails to make any real sense to me. shrug Which is OK, people can have differences of opinions. We’ve stated ours, so I don’t think there’s much more to discuss on this topic.

If democracy is hijacked, it’s probably no longer democracy. Or we can improve our democratic processes. If face recognition is abused, it’s still face recognition. We can improve it as much as we like, it will only become worse when abused.

The arbiter for that would of course be a government elected by the people, or the people themselves. Who else would it be?

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