Amnesty International is launching a new “Ban the Scan” campaign in an effort to end the police use of facial recognition. The organization will begin its campaign in New York City before turning its attention to other parts of the world later in the year.
While Amnesty International has called for a global facial recognition ban in the past, Ban the Scan is a more concerted attempt to get policies implemented on an international scale. Like other facial recognition watchdogs, the organization believes that the technology violates people’s fundamental right to privacy, and suppresses lawful assembly and public expression.
In that regard, Amnesty called particular attention to the use of facial recognition in law enforcement, and to the issue of racial bias. The organization noted that black people are more likely to be misidentified, and that biased algorithms often exacerbate the systemic bias already present in police institutions. As an example, Amnesty cited the case of Derrick “Dwreck” Ingram, who was identified and targeted for arrest due to his involvement in a Black Lives Matter protest over the summer. The NYPD has confirmed that it used facial recognition to identify Dwreck, but is yet to share much of the documentation related to his case.
“Facial recognition risks being weaponized by law enforcement against marginalized communities around the world,” said Amnesty AI and Human Rights Researcher Matt Mahmoudi. “New Yorkers should be able to go out about their daily lives without being tracked by facial recognition.”
As part of the Ban the Scan campaign, Amnesty will run a website that allows New Yorkers to comment on the NYPD’s use of facial recognition. Later in the year, it will also issue Freedom of Information requests to find out where and how facial recognition is being used across the City. The organization’s network of Amnesty Decoders will further that goal with geolocation tech that can pinpoint the location of face-based surveillance cameras.
Amnesty is calling for a full ban on the police use of facial recognition for mass surveillance, and for a broader ban that would prevent any government agency from using, developing, or selling any form of the technology for that same purpose. If implemented, the policy would bar the export of facial recognition systems to other countries. Boston and Portland are some of the cities that have already banned the police use of facial recognition.
January 27, 2021 – by Eric Weiss