Thursday, August 15, 2019

Against facial recognition

Yesterday, we learned that Auckland Transport wanted to turn Auckland into a surveillance state, with an extra 8,000 cameras equipped with facial recognition technology. Today, we learned that the police want to use those cameras:

The new cameras are capable of facial recognition but Auckland Transport (AT) said this function was not used.

However, police are interested in it.

"Police does not currently have the ability to run facial recognition off live CCTV cameras," a police spokesperson said in a statement.

"However, we would always be open to using new and developing technologies in the future, balanced against relevant legislation."

Or, to put it another way: they're open to engaging in mass-surveillance and spying on innocent members of the public going about their daily business, in the hope of catching a few criminals. Except that its a forlorn hope, because facial recognition has false positive rates between 81% and 96%. Meaning that if they try and make an arrest based on a "match", they'll be harassing an innocent person four times out of five, or 24 times out of 25. Which may work fine in a police state like China, but imagine what it does to the police's social licence in New Zealand.

Using facial recognition cameras is mass surveillance. Instead of encouraging Auckland Transport, we should be outlawing this intrusive technology and the tracking it enables and entails.