- EU Leaders to Consider Ban on Face Surveillance (January 16, 2020)
- National Institute of Science and Technology Study Finds Extensive Bias in Face Surveillance Technology (December 19, 2019)
- Hong Kong’s High Court rules anti-mask law unconstitutional (Nov. 18, 2019)
What is Face Surveillance?
Over the past decade, a powerful identification technology has emerged that will create the engineroom for a new era of mass surveillance across the world. This technique has the capacity to scan and identify the faces of thousands or even millions of people in real time. It must be stopped.
EPIC and Public Voice are calling for a moratorium on Face Recognition (FR) technology. We are not alone. In October 2019 more than ninety NGO's and hundreds of experts joined our call by pledging on our petition for a ban.
Courts and regulators are also listening. There is growing awareness of the need to bring this technology to a halt. Draft recommendations for the European Commission propose a ban on facial recognition "for up to five years until safeguards to mitigate the technology's risks are in place." In 2019 the Swedish Data Protection Authority prohibited the use of facial recognition in schools. The state of California prohibited the use facial recognition on police-worn body cameras. Several cities in the United States have banned the use of facial recognition systems, and there is a growing protest around the world.
We recognize the increasing use of this technology for commercial services, government administration, and policing functions. But the technique has evolved from a collection of niche systems to a powerful integrated network capable of mass surveillance and political control. Facial recognition is now deployed for human identification, behavioral assessment and predictive analysis.
FR has been in development since the 1960's, but it has been only in the past few years that the technique has achieved technical and economic maturity. Now, these systems are being rolled out in dozens of countries, often without legal protections and with little regard for the rights of citizens. We are alarmed by recent reports about bias, coercion, and fraud in the collection of face images and the use of facial recognition techniques.
Deployment of Face Surveillance
Facial recognition can be deployed in almost every dimension of life, from banking and commerce to transportation and communications. And the technology can amplify identification asymmetry as it tends to be invisible or at best, opaque.
Unlike other forms of biometric technology, facial recognition is capable of scrutinizing entire urban areas, capturing the identities of tens or hundreds of thousands of people at any one time.
Our demands are uncomplicated. We urge countries to:
- Suspend the further deployment of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance;
- Review all facial recognition systems to determine whether personal data was obtained lawfully and to destroy data that was obtained unlawfully;
- Undertake Research to assess bias, privacy and data protection, risk, and cyber vulnerability, as well as the ethical, legal, and social implications associated with the deployment of facial recognition technologies; and
- Establish the legal rules, technical standards, and ethical guidelines necessary to safeguard fundamental rights before further deployment of this technology occurs.