Public Voice Launches Petition for an International Moratorium on Using Facial Recognition for Mass Surveillance

Coming out of the Privacy Commissioners' Conference in Albania, Public Voice is launching a petition for an international moratorium on using facial recognition software for mass surveillance.

You can sign on as an individual or an organization. I did. You should as well. No, I don't think that countries will magically adopt this moratorium. But it's important for us all to register our dissent.

Posted on October 22, 2019 at 10:12 AM • 23 Comments

Comments

Rolf WeberOctober 22, 2019 4:06 PM

Two questions/ remarks:

1. One argument against crypto regulation always was (and I fully second this): "crypto is out of the tube. You cannot reverse it in again!". Obviously the same is true for facial recognition.

2. Is there a single known innocent victim of facial recognition "mass surveillance" in a western country?

Clive RobinsonOctober 22, 2019 6:28 PM

@ Bruce,

But it's important for us all to register our dissent.

Whilst I understand why we should, but it raises a deeper question,

    What is so wrong with modern society that such an obviously wrong use of technology should need us to register our dissent

Or if you prefer, why are those who are so morally corrupt, be alowed in positions where they can unilaterally decide that something so obviously harmfull to society should be put in place? Often out of the pockets of those it is being used against...

Bruce SchneierOctober 22, 2019 8:10 PM

@Clive Robinson:

I have many theories, but I would be breaking my own blog rules by discussing them here.

JonOctober 22, 2019 8:17 PM

I signed it.

I have said before, and I will say it again, "What makes you think the cops are the good guys?".

To address other concerns - power abuseable will be abused. The solution is universal punishment for abuse of power.

We're a long way from there, and it may be impossible in toto, but it doesn't hurt to strive in that general direction, and in the meantime deny abuseable powers to those who would abuse them.

J.

jim dubaOctober 23, 2019 5:30 AM

My dissent has been registered before and now here. I will pass it on to others. I am skeptical of this form of dissent - consider "net neutrality". I'm certain that that instrument will add names to other list kept by various "authorities", but I'm probably there already. I'll also pass the link on to others.

How Many x Oxford Picture DictionaryOctober 23, 2019 7:05 PM

At first glance, this concept might be a good idea.
However, OCR/OFR ought to be optin by default, not optout by default.

I've not much to say on this topic as of yet.
Futurism is a worthy angle, if you're seeking other opionions; where do all of these convergent problems lead? endgame? ultimate endpoint? motivation? extrapolated results? interpolated events?

Many of these (several other implied) problems seem to me to be more METABOLIC at this time, than much else other than also CULTURAL.

The technology is aiming at biology. And the biology is picking up the technology as if it's harmless. (Most of the technology isn't harmless by default; most of the technology has compound complex interoperability issues, most of which result in potentional disasters all the way down to regular every day annoying.

Seriously, though. It's really worth it to spend several hours at a toy store with your SECURITY mindedness engaged. With the right outlook, I think most of us who prefer safety instead of increased risks and damages will notice and will have noticed some extremely disturbing problems and conflicts and damages and risks looming ahead courtesy of several manufacturers and distributers.

In the meantime, as a contingency amplifier, and for increased awareness, it's not a bad time to become more active within other fields of related concern with increased effectiveness against damages and risks and losses.

sincerely,

?xOPD

ObiJanOctober 23, 2019 10:27 PM

>moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology that enables mass surveillance

The "facial recognition technology" that "enables mass surveillance" is the same thing that allows grandma to organize that family photos. It's just ran a different dataset, with beefier processors.

Let's say, for argument's sake, this petition is a complete success and government use is totally banned worldwide. (Fat chance!)


Are we also going to prohibit private companies from using the technology?
If not, how do we prevent those companies from selling the intel as a service to governments?


RichardOctober 24, 2019 3:13 PM

The argument "you cannot forbid it since too many already use it" is flawed.

If we consider using facial recognition on images of people without their explicit consent to be a bad thing, we could forbid it even if many people do it and would still be doing it even if illigal.

Posession of pornographic images of children is illegal and should be illegal, even if many people still do it.

PhilOctober 24, 2019 3:15 PM

It would be nice to be able to take a whole bunch of private photographs completely under my control, and throw them at an algorithm also completely under my control, and as I identify my friends, have it helpfully suggest where else among my own private collection my friends are pictured as well... all without ever sharing any bit of this information anywhere outside my own personal complete and total control!!!! This is totally possible to do, technically speaking!!!

Except.... mass surveillance. It's hugely profitable. Nobody will invent and mass distribute/market the above scenario, when it's many orders of magnitude more profitable to just build in mass surveillance into it as well... It's just not economical to leave such large sums of money on the table. And the fact is, few people care, overall, in this world, least of all any governments.

I hope my comment isn't stepping over the line with any politics (this is a bi-partisan problem, stemming from a basic human nature problem).

PhilOctober 24, 2019 3:30 PM

banning "facial recognition on images of people without their explicit consent" can too easily become a bit absurd too... recognizing faces is such a basic human function, would you accidentally ban eyes too? be careful what you wish for...

It's really the mass databases where people unknowingly contribute their information to mass societal-altering systems, that's the problem with all this... For example, Facebook builds a mass database of pictures of half the citizens of earth, who then freely shares it with the police of every country for every nefarious use. Similar things occur when genealogy companies collect DNA (and then share it with police to pin crimes on your relatives, when DNA testing was never designed to be accurate enough to withstand that large of a data set without lots of errors, let alone the whole unreasonable suspicion-less mass search and seizure issue)...

A Nonny BunnyOctober 25, 2019 3:04 PM

@Rolf Weber

2. Is there a single known innocent victim of facial recognition "mass surveillance" in a western country?
Well, there was that guy that was fined for not wanting to reveal his face to the surveillance camera's during a test by British police. ( https://metro.co.uk/2019/05/16/moment-man-fined-90-hiding-face-police-facial-recognition-cameras-9571463/ )
Oh, and all the false positives during that test that had better things to do than get held up by the police.

Also, one might justifiably hold the view that the mere fact of being surveilled without just cause makes one a moral victim.

A Nonny BunnyOctober 25, 2019 3:08 PM

@ Bruce,

But it's important for us all to register our dissent.
True. But on the other hand I'd be putting my name on a shortlist of people that, when the time comes, will be kept under especially close watch.

Rolf WeberOctober 26, 2019 11:47 AM

@A Nonny Bunny

The man was rather fined for a "piss off" insult to officers:
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/moment-police-fine-pedestrian-after-he-covered-face-from-facial-recognition-camera-a4144156.html

And regarding "being surveilled": When you are in public spaces, you can not expect much privacy anyway. I nevertheless agree it should not be allowed to store information about innocent people longer than about a day. However I have no problem when facial recognation is used to scan against a list of known endangeres, and if there is no match, it is deleted immediately.

A Nonny BunnyOctober 26, 2019 2:28 PM

@Rolf Weber

The man was rather fined for a "piss off" insult to officers
No, the video report is pretty clear that he was fined for disorderly behaviour based on that he was covering his face, and not for insulting the police.
I think you may be misreading the victim's report that he "said to him [the police officer] 'f*** off', basically" as meaning he said it literally. But that "basically" means "f*** off" is just a coarse two word summary of what he actually said.

When you are in public spaces, you can not expect much privacy anyway.
Sure you can. You can expect privacy to the extent that people should mind their own business.

Say you're having a conversation with a friend walking down the street. Then people have no business following you to listen in. That's just rotten behaviour. You ought to be able to expect people not to behave that way.
That's the kind of privacy you should be able to expect, even in public. Sure, people can see you and hear you. But they shouldn't be watching you and listening in. Polite ignoring.

However I have no problem when facial recognation is used to scan against a list of known endangeres, and if there is no match, it is deleted immediately.
I worry there will be very little to stop them forever expanding the boundaries on such powers. The "delete immediately" will probably be the first boundary to be pushed. And "known dangers" will probably be stretched to include everything from murder to jay-walking to paying your taxes late.

It's just so convenient to know where everyone is all the time, what they're doing, who they're with. You can solve crimes so easily then, heck they'll have so much free time they can invent entirely new crimes. How can they resist? - if we don't.

Rolf WeberOctober 26, 2019 3:34 PM

@A Nonny Bunny

No, the video report is pretty clear that he was fined for disorderly behaviour based on that he was covering his face, and not for insulting the police.
No I don't think this is clear, but I think it's not worth to dig any deeper, a £90 fine is not the end of the world for anybody.



Then people have no business following you to listen in.

CCTV cameras have a business. They watch, and you can know they are present. They are not secret. And they are not annoyant as the people you describe. And they forget what they saw after very limited time if nothing serious happened.



I worry there will be very little to stop them forever expanding the boundaries on such powers.

Of course there is, there is the law, and there are governments and parliaments we frequently elect.
I know I'm the execption here, but I believe in democracy and the rule of law. Not ultimately, but to some extend it deserves. However to assume elected governments will do everything they are technically able to is silly stupid and will lead to nowhere.

AlexOctober 27, 2019 1:39 AM

Sadly, all of this is a good 10+ years too late. Cameras are everywhere and we even have law enforcement actively recruiting private citizens' cameras, and not just the Ring cameras. All of the toll road plazas in this part of the country have cameras with facial recognition. Retail stores/malls also have very cozy relationships with law enforcement and routinely share data.

I agree with the premise of the petition, but it's too little too late. I believe the State of Florida got caught well over 10 years ago selling driver information, including photos, to a company which was using it to create a facial recognition database.

Paul StephensOctober 27, 2019 4:09 PM

> Sadly, all of this is a good 10+ years too late

No. It's never too late to restore privacy. To bring back common sense into methods of law enforcement. To restore anonymity in public unless explicitly asked for papers by the police, for serious reasons.

Even if it required outlawing the mere posession of databases with biometric identifiers (such as face image) without a signed consent of the photographed person, it should be considered. Seriously.

We simply cannot continue our march towards the total, Orwellian surveillance.

BrandonOctober 28, 2019 9:31 AM

@Rolf Weber

Orwellian surveillane is against the law in every western country.

That's not true. Government databases populated with facial images of every law-abiding citizen are legal (at least in the USA and most EU contries).

CCTV cameras on every corner of every street, in restaurants, hotels and classrooms are - in most countries of the so-called Western world - legal.

And running facial recognition software in real time on the images captured by those cameras is also legal. In many countries - like Slovakia for example - intelligence agencies have real-time access to the videostreams plus they have access to databases mentioned above plus they bought facial recognition software.

You fight against windmills.

It's unfortunately true. Unless some major change in the mentality of politicians occur - which is higly unlikely - we will have no private lives in a few years.

Rolf WeberOctober 28, 2019 5:23 PM

@Brandon

Government databases populated with facial images of every law-abiding citizen are legal (at least in the USA and most EU contries). [...] And running facial recognition software in real time on the images captured by those cameras is also legal.

Running facial recognition against an alleged government database with images of every law-abiding citizen is legal in the US or EU? Do you have a link?

Unless some major change in the mentality of politicians occur
Politicians are elected by people like you and me.

TRXOctober 29, 2019 2:53 PM

Useless. Probably position posturing.

In the modern world, police in restrictive jurisdictions just outsource that sort of thing to "fusion centers", which, though government-funded, are legally private entities. Fusion centers keep files and do spying that would be unlawful or inadmissible for police to do, then pass the information to them covered by "confidential informant" laws.

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