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Great Britain’s three nations are not in agreement over the use of facial recognition technology by police forces.
The technology, which can be legally used by police in Wales, was officially introduced by England’s Metropolitan Police Service in East London yesterday, amid a peaceful protest by Big Brother Watch.
Use of the technology by English police forces has not been debated in parliament or approved by elected officials.
By contrast, Police Scotland announced yesterday that its plans to roll out facial recognition technology by 2026 have been put on hold pending a wider debate about the implications of its use.
Their decision comes in the wake of a report published on Tuesday, February 11, by a Scottish government committee, which concluded that facial recognition technology is “currently not fit for use” by Police Scotland.
The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing informed Police Scotland that the force must demonstrate the legal basis for using the technology and its compliance with human rights and data protection legislation before they can start using it.
In a report that was part of the committee’s inquiry into the advancement of the technology, the committee wrote: “The use of live facial recognition technology would be a radical departure from Police Scotland’s fundamental principle of policing by consent.”
The committee warned that the facial recognition technology was “known to discriminate against females and those from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.”
Committee convener John Finnie said: “It is clear that this technology is in no fit state to be rolled out or indeed to assist the police with their work.
“Current live facial recognition technology throws up far too many ‘false positives’ and contains inherent biases that are known to be discriminatory.”
Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan said it would now conduct a public consultation on the live software and keep a “watching brief on the trialling of the technology in England and Wales.”
In September 2019, Cardiff’s high court ruled that police use of automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds is lawful. The technology is currently being used by South Wales police.
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Facebook on Tuesday announced a new facial recognition tool that can spot you even when you haven’t been tagged – handy when some identity thief goes and puts up an account with your photo.
It also introduced a way for the visually impaired to know more about who’s in the photos they encounter on Facebook.
You might be a bit dizzy from Facebook’s ever-changing privacy controls. You might be wondering how to keep yourself from ever being tagged in the first place, which would be pretty nice, privacy-wise. Sorry, Charlie: long story short, we’re still stuck with having to go untag ourselves, since nobody’s forced to ask us before they do the deed.
Short story long, on the facial recognition front Facebook says it’s received feedback from people saying that they’d find it easier to manage face recognition through a simple setting, so it paired the new tools with a single on/off control. It says that if your tag suggestions setting is currently set to “none,” then your default face recognition setting will be set to “off” and will remain that way until you decide to change it.
At which point you may be saying, as was I, Who now? What? Where dat?
For which Facebook has this page with instructions about how to turn off tag suggestions for photos of you. Mind you, it doesn’t stop anybody from tagging you – all it does is stop Facebook from suggesting that people tag you in photos that look like you.
Anyhow, back to the notifications when Facebook spots photos of you even though you haven’t been tagged: from hereon in, if you’re part of the audience allowed to see the image, you can choose whether to tag yourself, roam free and untagged like the wild mustang you are, or reach out to the person who posted the photo if you have concerns about it.
You can, that is, unless you’re in Canada or the EU, where all this is moot: Facebook doesn’t currently offer facial recognition there (a situation brought about after backlash from users and regulators. In 2012, the company, under pressure, turned off facial recognition in Europe and deleted the user-identifying data it already held.)
If you’re in a photo but you’re not in the post’s selected audience, you are out of luck, since Facebook says it “always respect[s] the privacy setting people select when posting a photo on Facebook (whether that’s friends, public or a custom audience).” Thus, you can still be in a photo and not receive a notification if you’re not in the audience.
At any rate, the new use of facial recognition is mostly about letting you know if someone has uploaded your photo as their profile picture. Facebook wants to prevent people from impersonating others on the platform.
This isn’t the first approach it’s taken to the problem: In March 2016, it was testing a feature that alerted users if somebody was impersonating them. Impersonation was one reported source of harassment that was brought up in a series of roundtables the company held around the world to discuss women’s safety on social media.
With regards to helping the visually impaired, two years ago, Facebook launched an automatic alt-text tool that describes photos to people with vision loss. Combining it with facial recognition will enable people who use screen readers to know who appears in photos in their News Feed even if people aren’t tagged.
A little background on all this facial recognition stuff:
Since 2010, face recognition technology has “helped bring people closer together on Facebook.”
Well, that’s the way Facebook tells it.
Let’s rewrite the fairy tale from the perspective of we, the huddled, relentlessly tagged masses: Since 2010, Facebook’s been “helping us” by facially recognizing people in photos, suggesting their names for tagging, and not bothering to ask the people whom Facebook thought it had recognized whether or not they actually wanted to be tagged.
There have been notifications when we’re tagged, and then we’ve had to go untag ourselves. We have not, mind you, been notified before we’ve been tagged, in case we don’t want to be tagged in the first place, by the paparazzi we call friends and family.
Since 2010, Facebook’s facial recognition has gone through all sorts of gyrations. At one point, Facebook appeared to have gotten to the point where its systems don’t even have to see your face to recognize your face. In 2015, Facebook’s artificial intelligence team scored 83% facial recognition accuracy, even for photos where faces weren’t clearly visible, by relying on cues such as a person’s stance and body type.
All this, in spite of the fact that people overwhelmingly loathe it when their photos are posted without their approval.
To Facebook’s credit, though, it’s done at least one privacy-positive thing vis-a-vis facial recognition: in November 2015, the company said it was putting together a program to warn parents before they share photos of children publicly instead of just with friends.
It was refreshing to see Facebook planning to do something about the missteps that people make with photos that are feeding into its mushrooming database of facial recognition biometric data.
(Its Jabba the Hut of a face database hasn’t exactly given up on bread and pasta, however; in April 2016, Facebook announced that it was moving beyond still photos to auto-tagging faces [and cats, and fireworks, and food] in videos. Talk about shooting growth hormones into a database!).
The heads-up to parents was a good step. We can count the extra help for the visually impaired to that side of the facial recognition ledger, too. Also, being told when people are using your photos as their own profile pictures is a win.
We’d still like to see Facebook come out with a setting where you specify that you can’t be tagged at all. Or how about going backwards one more step in the process?
Given that Facebook can recognize your likeness without you being tagged, it would seem to be possible that the company could offer a setting through which users could choose to have photos of themselves pre-emptively barred from being posted at all.
Would you opt for that one?
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What if your Facebook and Insta pics ended up in a facial recognition system intended to stop terrorism? And what if those pics could be shared between government agencies as a way of verifying that you are who you say
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The Government is planning to spend $18.5 million setting up the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, known as The Capability. A Government-commissioned assessment has warned it could collect more information than necessary and there is a risk it will not do enough to protect data. The Capability will give law enforcement and security agencies quick access to up to 100 million facial images from databases around Australia, including drivers’ licences, passport photos, and perhaps even Facebook photos. The photos will be coordinated through a system called The Hub that will help agencies quickly identify people and tackle cross-border crime. Privacy activists, such as Australian Privacy Foundation vice-chair David Vaile, are concerned. “Biometrics, unlike any other form of identification, is tied to your biological existence, which has some benefits for its use as an identifier but it has the great downside that if something goes wrong, if it’s breached, if it’s hacked, it can’t be revoked,” Mr Vaile said. “It’s not like cutting up a credit card or getting a new phone number or something. “Basically if anybody manages to get this, they breach the security, potentially you’re compromised for life.” Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/government’s-facial-recognition-system-sparks-privacy-concerns/7035980
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